Gertrude Pinsky

Gertrude Pinsky30s, 1950s, illegaldoctor, newyorkSUMMARY: Gertrude Pinsky, age 53, died on April 4, 1954 from complications of an abortion perpetrated in the Bronx by Dr. Hugo Francese.

New York police had been investigating an abortion ring when they got a tip, possibly trough a wire tap, that a woman was at the practice, seriously injured.

Accompanied by an ambulance, police broke into a private home at 2753 Sexton Place, in the Pelham section of the Bronx, on April 4, 1954. There they found Gertrude Pinsky, age 35, dead from septic poisoning from an illegal abortion. Gertrude, who had worked as a civilian employee at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, had been left fully clothed, complete with topcoat, propped up sitting in a chair. She had died of sepsis.

Police arrested Florence Cavalluzzo, a former practical nurse and resident of the home, and Hugo Francese, a physician who had lost his license in 1947 related to, as far as I can determine, drug charges. He also had been arrested twice in the past for committing abortions.

Later arrested were Jack M. Werner, owner of Werner Surgical Supplies, and Ignatius Cavalluzzo, Florence Cavalluzzo’s son, along with Mrs. Elizabeth Blum, a convicted abortionist who was promptly picked up for violating her parole.

GertrudePinskyTwoGuilty.pngTo add to the creepiness of the situation, the home was owned by a butcher and his wife, James and Mary Amodeo, who evidently rented space for abortions at $25 a pop. The Amodeos plea-bargained down to conspiracy to commit abortion, which was a misdemeanor, in exchange for their cooperation in the investigation of a three-state abortion ring. They were given a suspended sentence.

Dr. Samuel E. Witt was charged with referring women to the ring, evidently run by Dr. Herbert S. Wolfe. Four doctors were charged with referring women and receiving a $30 kickback for each referral: Joseph F. Pacelli, Abraham Cohen, Kalman Molnar, and Poon Lim. The abortions themselves cost between $200 and $400.

Francese and Florence Cavalluzzo were convicted of first-degree manslaughter in Gertrude’s death and sentenced to 12 1/2 to 15 years for first degree manslaughter . A police detective, Valentine J. Stewart, found at the home at the time of the raid, was acquitted. Stewart’s son, police patrolman Joseph F. Stewart, was also implicated as a conspirator in the ring.

Gertrude’s abortion was typical of illegal abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

During the 1950s, we see an anomaly: Though maternal mortality had been falling during the first half of the 20th Century, and abortion mortality in particular had been plummeting, the downward trend slowed, then reversed itself briefly. I have yet to figure out why. For more, see Abortion Deaths in the 1950’s.
For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion


  • New York Times 4-5-54, 4-6-54, 4-8-54, 6-18-54, 5-11-55, 5-10-55 & 12-12-5;
  • “Abortion Ring Aiders’ Sentences Suspended,” The Bridgeport (CT) Telegram, May 25, 1955;
  • “Local Women to Testify at Surgery Ring Trial,” The Bridgeport (CT) Herald, Jan. 30, 1955;
  • “Medical Licenses Revoked and Suspended,” New York State Journal of Medicine, v. 47;
  • “Indict Cop Son of Accused Detective for Abortion,” The Brooklyn Eagle, Jan. 20, 1955
  • “Police Hold Four In Abortion Case,” Kingston (NY) Daily Freeman, Apr. 6, 1954
  • “Death of Woman Spurs Probe of Alleged Abortions,” Kingston (NY) Daily Freeman, Apr. 5, 1954
  • “Coney Woman’s Death Launches Abortion Mill Quiz,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Apr. 5, 1954




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