We’ve all come to rely on our smart phones and social media to keep us connected to the world. But, what happens when the technology we use everyday, gets weaponized against us in our most vulnerable and personal moments?
That’s exactly what happened to a Nebraska teen, who is being charged as an adult for obtaining an illegal abortion based on evidence obtained from her Facebook messages, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.
Prosecutors allege the teen and her mother, Jessica Burgess, discussed how to help her have an abortion at home over private Facebook chats, which were subpoenaed by law enforcement.
Jessica Burgess, who is white, is facing five criminal charges – including three felonies, for allegedly assisting her daughter with her abortion at 23 weeks and subsequently burning and burying the fetus.
The attorneys representing Jessica Burgess and her daughter did not respond to the Lincoln Journal Star’s request for comment.
Although Jessica Burgess is white, her family’s story echoes those of Black and Brown women who, even before the fall of Roe v. Wade, had their personal devices weaponized against them, in order to prosecute them for allegedly having abortions.
Now, as more states move to ban abortion, the unholy matrimony of technological surveillance and anti-abortion fever is likely to get even more dangerous for women of color.
Let’s not forget, Latice Fisher, a Black Mississippi woman, who in 2017 was charged with second-degree murder after suffering a stillbirth at 35 weeks, according to the Washington Post.
Investigators used Fisher’s web searches on her phone, which showed she’d researched abortion medication, as evidence that she’d had an abortion past the state’s legal limit.
Fischer isn’t the only woman of color whose phone has been used against them as evidence that they’d illegally obtained an abortion.
Purvi Patel, an Indian woman living in South Bend Indiana, was sentenced to 20 consecutive years in 2015 after delivering a stillborn baby at 30 weeks.
Indiana investigators used text messages between Patel and a friend, where Patel allegedly said she was going to take abortion medication, to prove that she had intentionally ended her pregnancy, according to The Washington Post.
In both Patel’s and Fischer’s cases, prosecutors used the discredited “float test” to prove that their babies had been born alive. The test involves putting the fetus’ lungs in water to see if they’ll float, which is supposed to indicate whether a breath has been taken.
Although Patel’s and Fischer’s cases predated the Supreme Court overturning Roe, experts rightly saw them as harbingers of what was to come.
As states ban abortion at earlier and earlier stages of pregnancy (when miscarriages are more likely), and our lives become even further enmeshed with technology, it’s likely these types of cases will only become more common.