Here’s How The New York Times Covered A Story On Nebraska Teen Who Aborted, Burned Her Baby

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Brianna Lyman News and Commentary Writer
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The New York Times (NYT) hid gruesome facts about a Nebraska teen, who aborted her near-full-term baby at home before burning and burying the fetus, to try and spin the story about abortion rights.

Then-17-year-old Celeste Burgess was nearly 30 weeks pregnant when she took an abortion pill her mother purchased to end the pregnancy. The Food and Drug Administration permits the pill for the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, while the abortion was past the 24-week mark, which is when the baby is considered able to live outside the womb.

Burgess was not charged with violating the state’s abortion law, but was instead charged for what she did after. Burgess pleaded guilty to removing or concealing human skeletal remains after she admitted to giving birth to the stillborn baby before burying it with her mother. Authorities said the women later dug the remains up, drove them to a different location and buried them again. A man who helped the women bury the baby told authorities the women tried to burn the fetus. The fetus’ body had “thermal injuries,” The Times reported. (RELATED: Abortion Activists Upset About Constitutional Rules They Require In Their Own Orgs)

But The Times hid the gruesome facts from its headline and lede paragraph, instead framing the sentencing as targeting women for having abortions.

“Nebraska Teen Who Used Pills To End Pregnancy Gets 90 Days In Jail,” the headline read. The sub-headline simply said the defendant and her mother were “charged last year after the police obtained their private Facebook messages.”

“A Nebraska teen who used abortion pills to terminate her pregnancy was sentenced on Thursday to 90 days in jail after she pleaded guilty earlier this year to illegally concealing human remains,” the introductory paragraph read, making not a single mention of the fact that Burgess and her mother burned the aborted baby.

The Times makes note of Burgess’ plans to “burn the evidence” in the second paragraph before focusing on the state’s abortion laws and the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The article then quotes several individuals who seem to justify the gruesome incident because abortion rights were being restricted.

“This case is really sad because people resort to things like this when they’re really desperate,” Associate Professor of Law at the University Pittsburgh School of Law Greer Donley told The Times. “And the thing that makes people really desperate is abortion bans.”

“I am disturbed and appalled that, despite self-managed abortion not being illegal in Nebraska, prosecutors chose to punish a young person by wrongfully weaponizing their laws against them for allegedly ending their own pregnancy,” senior help line counsel at If/When/How Elizabeth Ling said, per The Times.

The Times wasn’t the only outlet to butcher the coverage. Rolling Stone completely mischaracterized the story as “Nebraska Teen Sent To Jail Over Illegal Abortion.”

Similarly to The Times, Rolling Stone had a sub-headline that reads “Celeste Burgess was arrested after Facebook turned over her private messages to police.”

But Rolling Stone didn’t stop there, writing, “A Nebraska teen who enlisted her mother’s help to obtain abortion pills in violation of state law has been sentenced to 90 days in jail. Celeste Burgess was 17 years old and 24 weeks pregnant when she took Mifepristone and Misoprostol that her mother purchased online.”

Burgess was not charged with taking the abortion pills or obtaining them. Rolling Stone tells the truth in the second paragraph, writing, “the now 19-year-old pleaded guilty to one count of improper disposal of human skeletal remains.” It took five paragraphs before the article mentioned the burned fetus.

Other outlets covered the story more accurately. NBC News headlined its piece as “18-year-old Nebraska woman sentenced to 90 days in jail for burning fetus after abortion.” CNN also noted in their headline of the coverage that Burgess was “charged with disposing of fetus” though the outlet waited six paragraphs to note the fetus was burned.