Women's Escort Service, class of 1989

Women's Escort Service, class of 1989

The Women’s Escort Service, part of the Women’s Political Task Force, was founded by Brown University student Pamina Gorbach, class of 1989. When she transferred to Brown from Johns Hopkins University, Gorbach recognized the need for escorts to help guide women seeking abortions into the Women’s Medical Center, protecting them from pro-life protesters. The volunteers were trained in how to approach and address an incoming patient and how to safely guide them into the center without taking a political stance.

This interview documents the history of the Women’s Escort Service – a volunteer organization developed out of the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center of Brown University for students interested in escorting women seeking abortions into the Women’s Medical Center of Rhode Island. The interview was recorded in two parts; the first conducted in 1988 and second conducted in 1989 with members of the Women’s Escort Service.

The first interview includes members Sarah Fast, Nancy Peterson '89, Karen Rebecca Brown '90, Sarah Nersher (?), and Dorcas Alison Buckser '89. The women share their personal reasons for becoming involved in the organization and primarily identify a desire to practice their pro-choice beliefs as the catalyst. They each share their first experiences escorting women into the center – located on Highland Avenue in Providence at the time – and describe the protesters, their chants, and the visual material they use to dissuade women from entering the center. They also discuss physical altercations they have witnessed between patients and protesters, the protesters’ children being present, as well as the protesters’ responses to their presence as women and Brown students. They conclude the interview by explaining what is particularly difficult for them in doing this work as well as the rewarding aspects that encourage them to keep participating.      

The second interview, conducted in 1989, includes members Dorcas Alison Buckser '89, Joan Carol Hilty '89, Nancy Peterson '89, and Susan Elizabeth Duvall '89. Hilty and Duvall explain their reasons for joining the organization as well as their first times escorting women into the center, which had moved to Broad Street in Cranston by 1989. All of the women share stories similar to the ones in the first interview and Buckser explains how her feelings toward the protesters and her position as an escorter have become more serious since the first interview. Each woman also discusses the support, or lack thereof, provided by her friends and family. Listeners should note that the second interview ends abruptly in the midst of a story.

For more information on the protestors, and the trial and injunction discussed in this interview, please see “Women Protecting Women From Anti-Abortionists,” by Anne Harrison, in the February 14, 1986 edition of the Brown Daily Herald, and  “Six Brown Students Testify Against Pro-Life Demonstrators,” by Andrew Shapiro, in the September 30, 1986 edition of the Brown Daily Herald.    

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4
Recorded on Jan 1, 1988
Interviewed by Karen Lamoree