Nebraska police subpoena teenager's social media for abortion prosecution
Editor's note: A statement from Facebook has been added to this story.
A Nebraska teenager is now facing criminal charges for seeking an abortion; an action that now violates the state's new laws.
According to Forbes magazine, Celeste Burgess, 17 is being prosecuted as an adult in Madison County District Court alongside her mother, Jessica Burgess.
It has been reported that the mother and daughter are being charged with "allegedly removing, concealing or abandoning a dead human body and concealing the death of another person." The Norfolk Police Department is said to have received a tip claiming the teenager had "miscarried in April at 23 weeks of pregnancy and secretly buried the fetus with her mother's help."
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Although the teen told investigators that she had a miscarriage, the investigation continued and Facebook was served with a search warrant for Celeste Burgess' social media account. Per Forbes, investigators "subsequently found messages between the mother and daughter allegedly detailing how Celeste had undergone a self-managed abortion with Jessica’s help."
Prosecutors are alleging that they violated the state's law which prohibits abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. This particular case has gained national attention because it is one of the first instances where an individual's social media accounts are being used as a form of incrimination in a state where abortion procedures have been banned.
The latest report comes nearly one month after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was asked about a possible plan to protect Facebook employees that might seek abortions.
“So I’ve had a lot of debates over time around things like encryption, right? Where there have been some safety advocates who have said, ‘Hey, if you encrypt messages, you’re making it harder to see some bad behavior?’" Zuckerberg said.
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"Well, you know, I think in this case having your messages encrypted is actually one of the ways that you keep people safe from bad behavior or overbroad requests for information or things like that.”
Andy Stone, who works as a Facebook Policy Communications Director, has acknowledged that the police department did request for information. However, he could not offer further details about the inquiry.
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Following this article's publication, Facebook released a statement clarifying it's role in the case.
"We received valid legal warrants from local law enforcement on June 7, before the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The warrants did not mention abortion at all. Court documents indicate that police were at that time investigating the alleged illegal burning and burial of a stillborn infant. The warrants were accompanied by non-disclosure orders, which prevented us from sharing information about them. The orders have now been lifted."
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