The US teenager in Nebraska pleaded guilty to concealing human remains when around 28 weeks pregnant. This goes beyond the week limit of 20 weeks according to Nebraska law. Celeste Burgess took the help of her mother in disposing of the fetus after ending her pregnancy with abortion pills. Jessica Burgess, the mother of Celeste, faces up to five years in prison, while the 19-year-old Celeste faces 90 days in prison. Now, the state bans abortion at 12 weeks.

The investigation was opened in June 2022 by the police. This was before the Supreme Court overturned the nationwide right to abortion. The decision was left to the state to determine whether to allow the abortion procedure or how to determine the rules. During this time, the mother and daughter were living in Nebraska. The state decided that abortion before 20 weeks from conception was banned. There are certainly mixed opinions on this subject. Knowing the below information on what is going on with abortion rights in the US might allow one to come to a sensible conclusion.

Abortion ban in the U.S.

In June 2022, the US Supreme Court made a decision to overturn the constitutional right to abortion, which left the states the power to decide on abortion procedures. By January 2023, abortion was banned across 14 states in the US. The right to abortion has been existing in the country for 50 years till June last year. However, since the regressive position was taken by the Supreme Court, the lives of many women and girls are at risk.

According to United Nations Human Rights, the experts said that the ban could mean the “violation of the right to privacy, bodily integrity, and autonomy, freedom of expression, freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, equality and non-discrimination, and freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and gender-based violence.” As per the New York Times, the below map shows all the states that banned abortion as of August.

Image Credits- New York Times

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organisation

The decision to overturn the preceding right to abortion came after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organisation case decision. The 2018 Mississippi state law was concerned because of the case. The law was based on a model with the specific intent to provoke a legal battle that would reach the court. It resulted in the overturning of Roe in the case. In March 2018, the Jackson Women’s Health Organisation sued the state health officer, Thomas E. Dobbs.

This is the first time the Supreme Court has taken away a fundamental right according to Reproductive Rights. The organization released an analysis paper on how “Dobbs is wrong, poorly reasoned, and not the final word on the Constitution’s protection for the right to abortion.” One reason mentioned in the analysis is the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644 (2015). In the case, the court did not question narrowly whether the right to marry someone of a same-sex couple is deeply rooted in the history or tradition of the country. Instead, they questioned the comprehensive sense. The question was more about whether there was present-day justification.

Teen who took abortion pill to end pregnancy given 90 days in jail | The Independent
Teen sentenced to 90 days in jail after using abortion pill to terminate her pregnancy. Image credits- Independent

Fundamental rights

While there is no comparison, we remain unaware of why the narrow test was not applied in the context of abortion rights. However, Obergefell declined to employ the narrow test. Instead, he chose Glucksberg, which favors an approach grounded in a broader interpretation of liberty. Nevertheless, the rationale for the applicability of the Glucksberg test in this instance remains undisclosed. Furthermore, questions regarding how the alteration of fundamental rights concerning abortion overlooks evidence that abortion laws on record were seldom enforced in the past. And it disregards the anti-immigration and sexist motivations underlying the enactment of 19th-century criminal abortion laws. These reasons constitute just a portion of the various factors outlined in the analysis paper published in March 2023.

Right or wrong?

Now, in the case of the 19-year-old, sentenced to prison, the mother was also sentenced to prison. As per the state laws, they committed a crime. As per the court documents, the teenager had a stillborn and had to abort the baby. But it was later found that Celeste Burgess and her mother were discussing on Facebook how to burn the abortion evidence. Eventually, in court, Burgess pleaded guilty to concealing human skeletal remains and concealing the death of another person. She was also charged with false reporting. She will also face two years of probation and the three-month jail time.

Her mother pleaded guilty to providing illegal abortion and making false statements. The case is being closely watched by states trying to restrict abortion access. The Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling on abortion rights appears to be changing how states will look at abortion cases. From one perspective, it is said that late-term abortions are rare. As stated by the CDC, most abortions take place before the 13th week of pregnancy.

Nebraska teen jailed for illegal disposal of her aborted foetus - BBC News
Nebraska teen imprisoned for improper handling of her terminated pregnancy. Image credits- BBC