A 17-year-old girl and her mother, Jessica Burgess, are being charged with felonies in Nebraska after the teen took Pregnot, a medicine to induce abortion. And it was the teen's DMs on Facebook — which Facebook handed over to the police — that helped officials gather the evidence they needed to arrest the two for their "crime" (see court documents, obtained by Motherboard, here). So much for Mark Zuckerberg's claim in June that Facebook users using the platform to seek abortion would be protected by encryption.
The teen will be tried as an adult.
According to Vice, after the home abortion, the girl and her mom buried the fetus. The teen now faces one felony and two misdemeanors, while her mother faces three felonies.
The state's case relies on evidence from the teenager's private Facebook messages, obtained directly from Facebook by court order, which show the mother and daughter allegedly bought medication to induce abortion online, and then disposed of the body of the fetus. While the court documents, obtained by Motherboard, allege that the abortion took place before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in June, they show in shocking detail how abortion could and will be prosecuted in the United States, and how tech companies will be enlisted by law enforcement to help prosecute their cases.
Pregnot is a kit of mifepristone and misoprostol, which is often used to safely end pregnancy in the first trimester. In this case, Burgess was 28-weeks pregnant, which is later in pregnancy than mifepristone and misoprostol are recommended for use. It's also later than Nebraska's 20-week post-fertilization abortion ban, which makes allowances only if the pregnant person is at risk of death or "serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function." (Nebraska's abortion laws have not changed since Roe v Wade was overturned).
Jessica Burgess is charged with five crimes (three felonies, including "perform/attempt abortion at > 20 weeks, perform abortion by non-licensed doctor, and removing/concealing a dead human body). Celeste is charged with one felony, "removing/concealing/abandoning dead human body" and two misdemeanors: concealing the death of another person and false reporting. She is being tried as an adult.
And from The Guardian:
In the wake of the supreme court's upheaval of Roe v Wade, tech workers and privacy advocates expressed concerns about how the user data tech companies stored could be used against people seeking abortions.
When a Facebook staffer posed the dilemma to the chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, asking how the platform would protect the user data of individuals seeking abortion care, Zuckerberg said the company's ongoing push to encrypt messaging would help protect people from "bad behavior or over-broad requests for information".
But when local Nebraska police came knocking in June – before Roe v Wade was officially overturned – Facebook handed the user data of a mother and daughter facing criminal charges for allegedly carrying out an illegal abortion. Private messages between the two discussing how to obtain abortion pills were given to police by Facebook, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.
Burgess, whose financial affidavit shows she has only $400 to her name, was fired from her job as a consequence of the arrest. A jury trial is set for October, according to Vice.