A mother and daughter from Nebraska are facing criminal charges in connection to an alleged self-managed abortion after Facebook turned over the pair’s messages to authorities. Police began the investigation after receiving a tip from a lady who identified herself as the daughter’s friend and claimed to have witnessed the girl taking a pill in April, according to Detective Ben McBride of the Norfolk, Nebraska, Police Division’s sworn affidavit. The detective discovered from the daughter’s medical records that she was at least 23 weeks pregnant at the time of the miscarriage. Abortion is prohibited in Nebraska after 20 weeks of fertilisation.
McBride was prompted to serve a search warrant to Meta for its chat history after Burgess and her daughter informed him that they had discussed the matter on Facebook Messenger. Meta agreed with the request. According to the affidavit, the conversation history appears to show that Burgess bought abortion pills for her daughter and gave her instructions on how to take them.
The chat history was utilized by the police to seize the couple’s laptops and phones as evidence. The daughter was charged with the felony of removing, obscuring, or leaving a dead human body when the two were charged with several offenses last month. The daughter will be tried as an adult because she is now 18 years old. Burgess is accused of carrying out an abortion without a doctor’s prescription and doing so twenty weeks after fertilisation, both offenses.
Tuesday night, after word of Meta’s role in the probe spread, the business issued a statement. ‘Nothing in the valid warrants we received from local law enforcement in early June, prior to the Supreme Court decision, mentioned abortion,’ the statement said. ‘The warrants concerned charges related to a criminal investigation and court documents indicate that police at the time were investigating the case of a stillborn baby who was burned and buried, not a decision to have an abortion.’
End-to-end encryption is available on Facebook Messenger, making communications only visible on users’ phones and inaccessible to Facebook or law enforcement. However, the security function is only accessible while using the Messenger phone app and must be individually enabled by each user.