A mother who bought her daughter abortion pills and then helped burn and bury the child’s body is asking for two of the charges against her to be dropped, on the grounds that the preborn child was not a person.
Jessica Burgess was charged with committing an abortion past 20 weeks and committing an abortion as a non-licensed physician, both of which are felonies. Both Jessica and Celeste Burgess were additionally charged with removing, concealing, or abandoning a dead human body, concealing the death of another person, and false reporting. And Jessica Burgess’s lawyer is arguing for two of the charges against her to be dropped.
Jessica and her daughter, Celeste, were arrested in August for an abortion that took place in April of this year. Celeste was nearly 24 weeks pregnant when her mother obtained abortion pills for her online. In the state of Nebraska, preborn children are protected from abortion by law after 20 weeks of pregnancy. And even though the abortion pill is not approved by the FDA to be used after 10 weeks of pregnancy, Jessica Burgess still gave the pills to her daughter, who was a minor at the time.
In the charge of “concealing the death of another person,” Burgess’s lawyer, Brad Ewalt, claimed that the infant was not a legal person. “Fetuses do not become legally ‘living’ until they are born alive and breathe independently,” he said. “Fetuses delivered dead by miscarriage or abortion are not legally cognizant ‘persons’ under Nebraska and federal law.”
He also asked for the charge of committing an abortion as a non-licensed physician to be dropped, as the abortion was committed on her minor child — and that, as a mother, Burgess had the right to make decisions about her daughter’s “health.”
After giving birth to the body of her dead child, Celeste and her mother asked 22-year-old Tanner Barnhill to help them conceal their crime. The child’s body was first placed into a plastic bag, burned, and buried three separate times. During an autopsy, it was found that the child’s lungs did not contain any air, indicating it was possible the abortion pills worked and the baby was stillborn. However, the autopsy report still cautioned that “the placement of the fetus into a plastic bag raises the possibility of asphyxia due to suffocation.” Additionally, there were thermal wounds on the infant’s body from being burned.
Facebook messages revealed that Celeste Burgess said she couldn’t wait to get “this thing” out of her, and how excited she was to be able to wear jeans again. They also agreed to burn the “evidence,” meaning the baby. At 23 weeks, it is possible that the baby would have been able to survive outside of the womb with proper medical attention.