Investigation Begins Into Detroit Teen Tamiah Russell’s Abortion Death

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 8, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Investigation Begins Into Detroit Teen Tamiah Russell’s Abortion Death

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
April 8, 2004

Lathrup Village, MI ( — Four months after a 15-year-old girl died from an abortion, the wheels of justice are finally beginning to turn.

As previously reported, on Friday, a press conference will be held to announce lawsuits being filed for the family of Tamiah Russell by Geoffrey Fieger, the attorney well known for his defense of assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian.

Meanwhile, Jim Halushka of the Oakland County Prosecutor’s office told that his office has reviewed an initial investigation by police into the abortion. If the abortion facility knew that Russell was under 18, they could be charged with a misdemeanor for performing an abortion on a minor.

But, according to Halushka, it appears that Russell may have used fake identification claiming she was 19 years-old.

“The investigation has been turned back over to the police, as more information is needed,” Halushka said.

While Haluska said that any statutory rape charges against Russell’s 24-year-old boyfriend would have been filed in Wayne County, where Russell resided and died, a spokesperson for the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office said there may not be a charge, as the family must come forward with the complaint.

Russell’s mother and aunt previously told reporters they did not know she was pregnant until she confessed it to them January 7, the day before she died. Once the minor is dead, said the Wayne County spokesperson, the complaint of statutory rape cannot be filed.

For now, state authorities are relying on local officials to pursue the case.

Matt Davis of the Michigan Attorney General’s Office told that the Russell case is, for the moment, a county legal matter. Davis said the state is not yet involved, but that does not mean that it won’t step in if necessary.

Russell, six months pregnant, was taken to the WomanCare of Southfield abortion facility by her boyfriend’s sister on January 7, in order to obtain an abortion. According to Russell’s mother, laminaria was inserted vaginally at the facility to begin dilation, and she was sent home.

She then confessed her pregnancy to her aunt and mother and told them she had begun the abortion procedure. Despite Michigan law requiring parental consent, the abortion business never told Russell’s mother about the planned abortion — perhaps due to the fake identification Russell allegedly provided.

After calling the WomanCare facility, staff there told Russell’s mother that, once the laminaria was inserted, the abortion had to be completed.

However, according to eMedicine Journal, though there are some medical risks, "pregnancies have safely been carried to term after laminaria insertion and removal." In fact, many crisis pregnancy centers offer laminaria removal for women who have changed their minds after beginning an abortion procedure.

Upon returning home from the completion of her abortion on January 8, Russell experienced heavy bleeding. Before paramedics could get her to Sinai-Grace Hospital in Detroit, she died from complications. It is believed that abortionist Alberto Hodari performed a D&E abortion, although the possibility that it was a partial-birth abortion has not been ruled out.

Steven Brown of the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office told the cause of death for Russell was listed as, "Uterine infarction with sepsis, due to status post second trimester abortion."

The uterine infarction that killed Russell was due to blockage in her uterine blood vessel and the resulting sepsis infection is what also caused the death of Holly Patterson in California. Patterson had been given the abortion drug RU 486 by a California Planned Parenthood facility, which had also not notified her parents.

"Maybe now something will be done," said Monica Migliorino Miller, Ph.D., director of Citizens for a Pro-life Society, who is organizing Friday’s press conference. "Woman are dying from the so-called ‘safe and legal’ abortion. What happened here in Lathrup Village is not an isolated incident. Abortion kills an unborn child and is harmful for women as well.”