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Mother & Daughter Charged After Facebook Gave Their DMs To Police But Meta Says The Narrative Is ‘Plain Wrong’

Photo: BublikHaus/Shutterstock/Facebook
Facebook Addresses DMs Used To Prosecute Nebraska Teen On Abortion Charges

A 17-year-old from Nebraska was prosecuted by the police for performing a medicated abortion from her own home, after data handed over to law enforcement by Facebook and parent company, Meta, was used as evidence in the case.

Police obtained a court order requesting the data which would lead to the arrest of Celeste Burgess — the teen in question — and 41-year-old Jessica Burgess. Both the mother and daughter are being charged with a series of felonies and misdemeanors.

Facebook messages were used as evidence to accuse the Nebraska teen of having an illegal abortion. 

According to court records from the investigation which began in April, Celeste and Jessica purchased a medication called “Pregnot” which is commonly used to safely end pregnancies within the first trimester of pregnancy.

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In this case, however, Celeste's pregnancy had passed Nebraska’s 20-week post-fertilization abortion ban. Conflicting reports state she was between 23 and 28 weeks pregnant — which would be her second or third trimester.

Nebraska's 2010 law designated exceptions only for those who are at risk of death or "serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function."

The information handed over by Facebook confirmed the suspicions from the investigators, uncovering DMs between Celeste and Jessica where they discussed taking the medication, burying the stillborn infant, and agreeing to “burn the evidence.”

The pair enlisted the help of a 22-year-old man, Tanner Barnhill, on Facebook in burying the corpse, later discussing via Facebook DM to burn it instead — he has been charged with attempting to conceal the death of another person.

Jessica has been charged with three felonies (five crimes in total), including performing/attempting abortion at more than 20 weeks, performing abortion by a non-licensed doctor, and removing/concealing a dead human body.

Celeste, the daughter who was pregnant, has been charged with one felony "removing/concealing/abandoning dead human body" and two misdemeanors: concealing the death of another person and false reporting.

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A jury trial has been scheduled for October, where Celeste will be tried as an adult.

Reactions to Facebook and Meta's role in the prosecution of the mother and daughter have been instilled with outrage as people express concerns about how the user data tech companies store could be used against people seeking abortions.

However, Meta says the narrative is all wrong.

In response to all of the criticism and hatred that Facebook has been getting due to news coverage of Celeste’s case, Meta shared a press release to their newsroom so they could “correct the record” on their involvement.

“Much of the reporting about Meta’s role in a criminal case against a mother and daughter in Nebraska is plain wrong,” Meta claimed on August 9, 2022.

They claimed that the warrants they had received came on June 7, 2022, before the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“The warrants did not mention abortion at all,” they claim. “Court documents indicate that police were at that time investigating the alleged illegal burning and burial of a stillborn infant.”

They also claim that in the orders, they were issued a non-disclosure agreement that prevented them from speaking out about the situation — orders that have since been lifted.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is an Assistant Editor who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice, and politics. Keep up with his rants about current events on his Twitter.

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