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Facebook Under Fire for Turning in the Teenager to Police over Abortion

American mother and her 17-year-old daughter have been facing multiple criminal charges for self-administered abortion in the state of Nebraska. According to reports, the social media network, Facebook, gave police the private messaging data on court order. The data alleged that the mother helped her teenage daughter to get rid of her 28-weeks pregnancy at home. It also alleged that Jessica (mother) and Celeste (daughter) burned the fetus and buried it.

Celeste told police in April that she suffered a miscarriage at the 23rd week of pregnancy. The police continued to investigate and obtained a search warrant to access the Facebook accounts of the mother and daughter. They found messages suggesting that the mother had bought abortion pills and instructed her daughter about using them. The daughter reminded her mother to “burn the evidence” and expressed joy by saying, “F*ck yes, I can wear Jeans again”.

The duo has been facing charges for removing, abandoning, and hiding a dead human body, false reporting, abortion at more than 20 weeks, and abortion by a non-licenced doctor. Police also charged a third person, a 22-year-old male, Tanner Barnhill, who assisted the 2 women in burying the fetus at his parents’ property.

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Even though the duo broke the Nebraska law that banned abortions after 20 weeks, the case was a shocking revelation about how law enforcement can use tech companies to prosecute women for abortion. About 44 states in the US ban abortion in some capacity, while 20 and the District of Columbia protect it. The case led social media users to share concerns about women seeking pregnancy who can get turned in to the police by the very platform they use to communicate. Pro-choice activists raised a call for all women to delete Facebook for the trust it had breached.

Not Guilty

Celeste is now 18 years old and will be tried as an adult. She and her mother both pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Celeste will again appear in court on 29 August and Jessica on 2 September. Barnhill, the accomplice, pleaded no contest and will be sentenced at a later date in August.

The mother admitted that she bought Pregnot pregnancy kit with a purpose of inducing miscarriage and the result was stillbirth. Both women told the police about the burial site. They exhumed the body and found thermal wounds which indicated that the fetus was burned before getting buried.

Women Trying to Get Abortion in America

The abortion occurred before June when the Supreme Court of the US overturned Roe v Wade, a legendary case that had protected women’s abortion rights for over 50 years. The outrageous decision spawned a lot of memes on the internet, criticizing the court for taking an anti-women stance. However, the US has a history of prosecting women over abortion even when Roe v Wade was viable.

According to reports, 61 people were criminally charged for self-administered abortion from 2000 to 2020. Most prominently, Purvi Patel, an Indian American who received 20 years in prison after being found guilty of feticide in 2015. She also claimed that she had a stillbirth but received the penalty anyway. It took 1 year to overturn her sentence.

In 2017, Latice Fisher, a woman of color from Missisipi was charged with a second-degree murder of her newborn. The baby was found dead in the toilet while the umbilical cord was still attached. Police prosecuted Fisher after investigating her Google searches that included “buy misopristol abortion pill”. The charges were later dropped after they found no evidence that Fisher actually consumed the pills.

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