Two Charged for Abortion Based on Facebook Data

Two Charged for Abortion Based on Facebook Data
  • Facebook has repeatedly faced accusations of mishandling user data. 
  • Federal protection for abortion rights was reversed by the Supreme Court in June.
  • Several states moved to ban the procedure in the wake of the ruling.
  • The two issues of data privacy and abortion have now collided.

( – In June, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled there was no constitutional right to abortion. The decision reversed longstanding federal protections for the procedure. Almost immediately after the ruling, states began to severely limit the procedure.

Prior to the ruling, many states already had laws restricting the procedure; Nebraska was one of them. Abortion is illegal 20 weeks after the egg is fertilized in the state. That didn’t stop a mother and daughter from breaking that law. Police have now charged them after receiving information from Facebook.

Nebraska Case

According to reports, police have charged a mother and her 17-year-old daughter with multiple misdemeanors and felonies after they conspired to perform an illegal abortion. The state is relying on private messages between the two that a court forced Facebook to hand over.

In April, Celeste Burgess was allegedly over 23 weeks pregnant when she and her mother, Jessica Burgess, purchased a Pregnot kit online. It came with misoprostol and mifepristone, pills used to induce abortions during the first trimester. Messages between the two reportedly laid out a plan to burn the fetus’ corpse after the illegal termination was complete.

Madison County District Court charged Jessica with three felonies, including performing an abortion by a non-licensed doctor, performing an abortion after 20 weeks, and concealing a dead human body. Prosecutors are charging Celeste as an adult. She’s facing two misdemeanors for false reporting and concealing the death of another person and a felony count of concealing a dead human body.

A 22-year-old man is also charged with helping to bury the fetus. He pleaded no contest and will be sentenced soon.


In the wake of the media reports on the case, a movement against pro-choice Americans has begun. The #DeleteFacebook hashtag has picked up steam with people who claim the social media company mishandled the data of its users. However, experts have said the company had little choice in the matter.

Columbia Law School Professor Daniel Richman told The Washington Post that search warrants for private conversations have to meet two requirements. First, there has to be evidence that someone committed a crime. Second, the messages must contain details about what took place and who was involved. With that, he says that police can go to companies and say, “Give me what I am asking for.” If tech companies refuse, they can be held in contempt and face financial penalties.

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