A Nebraska teenager was recently sentenced to 90 days in jail after she burned and buried the remains of her aborted baby, a case U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar called a “frightening violation of privacy and autonomy.”
Omar published a screenshot of a New York Times article about the case of 19-year-old Celeste Burgess, who was not charged “under Nebraska’s abortion law,” the article notes. At the time, Nebraska prohibited abortions after 20 weeks; that has now been moved up to 12 weeks.
Instead, she “pleaded guilty in May to removing or concealing human skeletal remains, a felony. Prosecutors agreed to drop two misdemeanor charges against her: concealing a death and false reporting,” the New York Times reports.
Burgess, 17 at the time, was “almost 30 weeks pregnant” in April 2022 when she used abortion pills obtained by her mother to terminate her pregnancy, according to the article. Her mother, Jessica, has pleaded guilty to violating Nebraska’s abortion restrictions along with providing false information to police and removing or concealing human skeletal remains, according to the Times.
Courthouse News reports that the mother and daughter tried to hide the remains, “at one point attempting to burn the remains with apple-flavored charcoal briquettes.” The baby was “buried, moved and reburied,” Courthouse News says.
Police obtained Facebook messages between Celeste Burgess and her mother where the daughter talked “about how she can’t wait to get that ‘thing’ out of her body,” according to the Associated Press.
Madison County Attorney Joseph Smith, who prosecuted the case, defended his use of the term “baby.”
“I looked at the pictures for one thing,” he said, according to Courthouse News. “I use ‘baby.’ I make no apologies for it. I saw the photos.”
Burgess expressed remorse for her actions during a court hearing last week, Courthouse News reports.
“I was honestly scared and didn’t know what to do,” she said. “I wanted to do the right thing but I didn’t know what I was doing at the time wasn’t the right thing. I do regret my decisions, very much.”
National Review pointed out that the incident took place before Roe v. Wade was overturned, noting that “we are talking about an extreme case that occurred while Roe was in effect, and the relevant law is a longstanding statute regarding the disposal of human remains, not Nebraska’s abortion law.”