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Mother who helped teen daughter abort fetus is sentenced to two years in prison

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Mother who helped teen daughter abort fetus is sentenced to two years in prison

Sep 22, 2023 | 5:54 pm ET
By Paul Hammel
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Mother who helped teen daughter abort fetus is sentenced to two years in prison
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(Getty Images)

Editor’s note: this story has been corrected. The state’s new abortion law went into effect earlier this year.

LINCOLN — A Norfolk, Nebraska, mother was sentenced Friday to two years in prison for helping her teenage daughter abort a fetus last year that was beyond 20 weeks of gestation, a violation of the state law in effect at the time.

Jessica Burgess, 42, had pleaded guilty in a plea deal to a felony charge of aiding an abortion past 20 weeks of gestation and misdemeanor charges of false reporting and concealing human remains.

Madison County District Judge Mark Johnson sentenced Burgess to one year in prison on each of the three counts. He ordered two of the counts to be served consecutively, thus resulting in a two-year sentence.

Burgess was transported shortly after the sentencing hearing Friday morning in Madison to the state prison for women in York.

Fetus was at 29 weeks of gestation

She had helped her then-17-year-old daughter abort a 29-week-old fetus using pills ordered online in April 2022. Later, the pair burned and buried the remains in a field north of Norfolk.

The daughter, Celeste Burgess, was sentenced in July to serve 90 days in jail, followed by two years of probation. She had pleaded guilty to one count of removing a dead human body.

The judge had ordered a psychological exam for the mother, but earlier this month he rescinded that order citing a “lack of funding.”

Madison County Attorney Joe Smith said he had argued against a probation sentence for the mother because of her lack of candor to investigators.

He disputed some national observers who said the case was about abortion rights.

‘Violation of law’

Smith said the matter was about a “violation of the law,” involving performing an abortion beyond the legal bounds of Nebraska law, which banned abortion beyond 20 weeks of gestation, in effect in 2022.

Earlier this year, the Nebraska Legislature passed, and Gov. Jim Pillen later signed it into law, a measure that restricts abortion past 12 weeks of gestation.

That law, which is being challenged in court, had the emergency clause and went into effect with the governor’s signature.