This is a transcription of an interview with former abortionist Patti Geibink by Lila Rose of Live Action.
Rose:… What got you interested in obstetrics and gynecology?
Giebink: Women’s health was becoming a big thing and it was about the same time as more women were going into OB/GYN. Because it was just so exciting. You know, you have clinic, you have the operating room, you have labor and delivery, and there’s a lot of variety. And women are great people. So I just sort of gravitated that way, in that direction.
Rose: And during that process, as you were experiencing different elements of being an OB/GYN, when did you first start, when did you have your first experience with abortion?
Giebink: Well, going to Indiana University, they have an abortion clinic that’s called the Well Women’s Clinic. I knew going into the residency that that was part of it. And possibly, I can’t quite remember, but possibly they had been part of the reason I was matched there. I believed that it was a woman’s right to choose, and that that was an important option to keep open.
Rose: And what formed that opinion that you had, that it was a woman’s right to choose?
Giebink: Probably a group of pro-choice women when I was in medical school that I became associated with. [They] went through several different name changes, and Women’s Political Caucus was one of them, NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League). Anyway, it went through various name changes but it was the same group of women which were mostly older than I was, women who were determined to keep abortion legal.
Rose: And then when you first started doing abortions in residency, was that a part of the program for all the students, or the residents?
Giebink: It was a requirement to work in the Well Women’s Clinic, but it was not a requirement that you actually did abortions. I was interested in doing abortions. I think just the techniques, the science of it, the psychological aspect of that part of pregnancy. I don’t think I really stopped and questioned. I just really had a strong belief that it was important to keep that option on the table.
Rose: Do you have any particular incidents that you remember? Abortions that you did during that time that stand out in your memory?
Giebink: Probably the most difficult abortion that I had done – I had done quite a few up to that point, and it was in the Well Women’s Clinic where there was no IV sedation, nothing other than a local block, a local paracervical block. And this was a woman who had twins at 17 weeks. And I just remember, it was just so physical. And she was uncomfortable, and we didn’t really have anything else to offer her. And so that was kind of the limit of what I thought I wanted to do.
Rose: And when you said it was so physical, these were twins at 17 weeks, what do you mean by that?
Giebink: Well, to dilate the cervix, to get all the tissue out, body parts – make sure you have everything. And often times, back then we didn’t do – we didn’t use ultrasound all the time. But in this case, I wanted to make sure that I had all the parts of two babies. The hardest part is the head, or the calvarium, because sometimes it just kind of rolls around and there’s different instruments, one’s called a Bierer forceps, to grab the head and make sure that you have that. Physical meaning, from my standpoint, it’s twice as hard as just doing a singleton. And so that. And I thought, this is, this is a bit much.
Rose:… At the time you’re there, you’re in support of abortion, you’re doing abortions as part of your residency, did you feel any sort of check in your spirit, a sense of anything in your conscience, or any kind of sense that maybe you shouldn’t continue to do that kind of procedure? Or was it just a challenge, I have to complete the abortion of the twins?
Giebink: I never really thought it was wrong. I never really thought – I just didn’t have a check in my spirit, as you say. I just – to me it was embryology, it was science, it was surgery… I can’t say that I stopped and was thinking, when does life begin. So, when the abortion laws were written, the original Roe V Wade said abortion is legal up to the point of viability. But nobody defined, what is viability. But for me, doing obstetrics, you reach a point where you say, “this is a baby.”
Early on in my career I was working with another doc, and he went on vacation. And one of his patients had a 25 week pregnancy that had been having some chronic bleeding. And I’d actually seen her the last time he went on vacation, and she was doing okay. And then she came in and she was 25 weeks now. And on the monitor, the baby was not looking good. I so much remember this, even though it was 1991. And I said, “we need to get this baby out. And you’re only 25 weeks.” And I painted a grim picture, a really grim picture. You know, the baby might die, the baby might never breathe right, it might be blind – I just painted this horrible picture. And I did her C-section, and this little baby came out. And I swear, if it could have had English, it would’ve said, “Oh, I am so glad you finally got me out of there.” And this little baby, 25 weeks, a little bit undergrown, never was on a vent, never required any oxygen… 15 years later, I ran into this woman at a pro-life rally. And she came up to me, and she said, “I’m sure you don’t remember me.” And I looked at her, and I said, “Sam.” And she said, “he’s turning 15, and he’s perfect. He doesn’t even wear eyeglasses.”… And so, when I hear of people doing abortions at 25 weeks, I think of Sam. That’s a baby.
Rose:… How did you get involved with Planned Parenthood and what was your role there?
Giebink: I started working part-time at Planned Parenthood only doing abortions. And so, most of the time I would be working out of my own clinic and then, when they’d have enough abortions scheduled, I would go and work a day at Planned Parenthood. And eventually, and I don’t know what their thinking was, they offered me a full-time job. Which was still, most days I was doing basic GYN. None of my OB patients came.
Rose: When you say basic GYN, does that include prenatal care?
Giebink: No. Never – I worked at Planned Parenthood as a residence in Indianapolis and we didn’t do any prenatal care. To my knowledge, I don’t know any Planned Parenthoods that do prenatal care. We would do OB ultrasounds for dating –
Rose: And for what purpose was that?
Giebink: The purpose would be to see, where they still in the first trimester, can we get these done in South Dakota, or did they need to go elsewhere.
Rose: For the abortion –
Giebink: Yeah. Which would usually be Omaha.
Rose: And at Planned Parenthood, once you were there full-time, were they the only elective abortion clinic in town?
Giebink: Yes. Yes. Actually, in the whole state.
Rose: Wow. And so how many abortions were you doing with them a year, since they were the sole provider?
Giebink: Around a thousand. Roughly. Give or take. Sometimes maybe 1300, sometimes maybe 900.
Rose: And then, that went on for how long?
Giebink: I was there for full-time for one year. I was there part-time for almost 2 years.
Rose: So [a] three year span, it sounds like. Talk to us about what happened that had you exit your time at Planned Parenthood, and when you stopped doing abortions.
Giebink: It was a very stressful year. In the one year I was there as a full-time OB/GYN doc, I didn’t do any OB… And what happened was, pretty much most of my patients that I had in private practice didn’t want to come to Planned Parenthood for their routine care. So I saw most of the patients that were just Planned Parenthood patients. So most of the time I was just doing GYN or ultrasounds, and then just doing abortions when we had a full day scheduled.
It was very tumultuous. Several things happened. We had a nurse who stole a bunch of narcotic tablets and the business manager embezzled $18,000, and what was so amazing is, nobody shut us down.
Rose: There were no state inspections, department inspections?
Giebink: No, never saw the health department. And it was not the cleanest clinic.
Actually,… after I left … the guy who had had the building actually built [Planned Parenthood] a new building about a mile west, right across from the new high school. And he built them a new building, and so the old building was actually bought anonymously by some pro-life people and eventually [they] turned it into a pro-life resource center… Leslie has become a good friend of mine, and she was talking about how filthy it was. And I said, “Yeah, I know.” It was small, it was – it was not a pleasant place to work.
And actually, it formerly was a veterinarian’s office. And there were days when I thought, I wonder if this is the same linoleum and carpet that they had when it as a vet clinic. It just had that, kind of, not fresh look to it. I think there was, kind of, just a lot of superficial cleaning. It was sort of old and tired, and small. I mean, the rooms were just so small.
Rose: Why do you think it was, I mean, we’ve heard other reports of Planned Parenthoods being unclean or breaking different laws, and all kinds of fraud, you know, there’s so much to be said there. Why do you think that was? At your facility at the time?
Giebink: Well, not seeing the health department come in and inspect.
Rose: And why do you think they never showed up?
Giebink: I don’t know. But is seems to be sort of universal that they have this sort of hands-off – I don’t know if it’s a political thing or they just don’t want to go there. We all know what happened with Gosnell. And there were plenty of laws on the books. People had even talked about how awful it was.… It’s just not talked about, I guess.
I even, once, when I became pro-life and I wrote our governor, I was upset because we had an informed consent law and I knew that (I wasn’t working at Planned Parenthood, but I knew enough people who still went there), Planned Parenthood wasn’t obeying the law as far as the informed consent. And I wrote the governor, and I said, “How come it’s a law and it’s not being enforced?” And he was sort of insensed that I would imply that they weren’t enforcing the law. And yet, it is pervasive.
Rose: And in a given day, for abortion days, how many abortions would you be doing on those days and why that many?
Giebink: I remember that sort of the rule of thumb was that you had to have at least 8 to 10 abortions for a day to break even. And so of course, they wouldn’t do a day for less than considerably more than that. It seems to me about 14 or so was like max. Because you’d run out of time.
Rose: And that was the Planned Parenthood management saying we’ve got hit certain numbers.
Giebink: Right. Right. Because on an abortion day, there were more people there, they had to hire people, they had to have enough nurses, and people to just staff all the stations.
Rose: And was that ever something, when you were talking to management that was tough for you, to have to meet those goals? How would you meet those goals, when you’re counseling women, to make sure you had enough women having abortions on those days?
Giebink: I think the thing that bothered me about Planned Parenthood is, they just expected me to be a technician. That they didn’t want me involved in any of the counseling, any other parts of it. And it was very difficult for me not to be involved. Often times, I would just get a few minutes with the patient, including the procedure time. So the patient – I would meet them when they came into my room, which was really the smallest room you could ever have, and still have the table and the machine. It was so small. And then you’d have the nurse – usually, we had two nurses, one with the patient, and one assisting me. And that it was just packed.
And I would do a brief, kind of history, to make, to try to rule out any things that would cause a complication. You know, allergies, medicines, previous surgery, things like that. And do you have any questions.…
A number of times – apparently, it wasn’t very pleasing to Planned Parenthood – if I felt that the patient really wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, I’d say something like, “Well, why don’t we just reschedule?” You know, “I don’t think you’re ready to do this today. Why don’t we just put you – reschedule you.”
And I’ll never forget one woman who young, maybe early twenties, and she said, “I can’t reschedule.” And I thought she’d say, I can’t get off work, I’ve got to travel, this or that, and she said, “I already paid my $400 and I won’t get it back.”
And I said, “No, you will get your money back if you decide you want to reschedule.” And she was so convinced she wasn’t going to get her money back that we just went ahead with the procedure. And there wasn’t really any follow-up, so I really don’t know what happened to her. But I was just the technician.
That was not a good place to be. That was not an emotionally good place to be, because all the other things were out of my control.
Rose: When you were leaving Planned Parenthood, did you continue to do abortions afterwords? What were your next steps for you practicing as a doctor?
Giebink: I did not do any more abortions.
Giebink: The opportunity never presented itself. I didn’t seek it out. I was working for different hospital systems. …
I’m actually the last South Dakota doctor to work for Planned Parenthood in South Dakota. Now they fly them in from Minnesota and Pennsylvania, I think. So. And actually, the numbers have just dwindled, to maybe, I think, 400 a year? I mean, a fraction of what it used to be. I don’t know where [the women] are going, maybe they’re just being better informed and choosing better options
Rose:… After leaving Planned Parenthood, a few years later, you are suddenly doing work with the pro-life organization. So tell me how your transformation happened from being the sole abortionist in the state to working with the pro-life community?
Giebink: Well, it was a very long, painful journey. Not an epiphany. I think – I was kind of searching, I know that I was doing some New Age–y things, some New Age, going to these Enlightenment Intensives, and realizing that I had achieved everything I thought was important in life. I had my private practice, you know, I had status and I was doing what I love doing. I was making money. But I was empty. I mean, I was a shopaholic, I would go buy stuff, and then, a couple weeks later I think, “oh, I have too many earrings, but what the heck, it’s so much fun to go and buy something. Clothes and, you know, just stuff. And, it’s like, I could never have enough. I went through a horrible divorce. It’s kind of like God was getting me to the end of my rope. So what happened was, a friend of mine mentioned that there was a new minister at this little church around the corner. And I’d never been to the church, I didn’t know anybody at the church, but I was drawn there. And once I went, I was so totally captivated, I couldn’t not go. I mean, if they had church, I was there.… I spent a year and a half studying the Bible with another woman…
Rose: And when you…were on the spiritual journey, were you unpacking your time at Planned Parenthood, the days you were – the abortions you have done, was that something you spent time thinking about?
Giebink: No. I had buried that so far.
Rose: So did you feel like that was something you didn’t want to share, that you were afraid you would be judged?
Giebink: Oh, absolutely.
Rose: So when did it go from, you saying, okay, God is pro-life, I should be pro-life. This is my past, but now what? You know, how do I speak on this? What were the steps then, when you eventually became a face for the pro-life movement in South Dakota?
Giebink: In 2006, in May, I went to a healing, deliverance conference in Minneapolis. And this was the first time I ever said anything out loud. And I had no intention of saying it. And at the end of the five-day conference, there was a period of a couple hours where they left time for people to come up and say a few words. And I almost never do that. So sure no not really set in then, I waited until the very end, where I finally thought, I think I need to get in this line. And then I was the end of the line. And so listening to people – and I thought, what am I going to say? Well, you know, this was great.
So I get up to where I’m next, and the woman in front of me goes up, and up until this point, I don’t think anybody had said the A Word. She gets up, and she sort of a middle-aged woman, and she was talking about being a nurse at St. Paul Ramsey hospital, where they do abortions. And she was a surgical nurse, and she was assigned to assist on this abortion, pregnancy termination procedure. And she said, “I can’t do that. I just can’t do that.” And they said, “Well, you either do that or you quit.” So she quit.
So I’m standing there, and I’m about 20 feet away from this little platform, and I really want to go sit down. I mean, I really want to go back to my table and sit down. I am not ready to do this. It’s like my feet were glued to the floor. And I said, “Okay God, you’re not surprised about this. Are you?” And then it’s my turn. I get called up there, and I get handed the microphone. And I said, “I am proof that God can redeem anyone. I used to do abortions for Planned Parenthood.” And I just sobbed. I just sobbed. I just couldn’t say anything else. I just handed back the microphone and walked off the platform and women came up to me and they were hugging me. I just get goosebumps thinking about it, because I just thought, oh my gosh, I just can’t believe I said that. And that was the first time. And then I kind of, like, buried it again.
But I was working with this wonderful Catholic OB in my small town. And that was’ 06, when there was an initiative. The Legislature had banned almost all abortions and immediately Planned Parenthood put an injunction out so it wouldn’t be enforced. And then they started this referendum, actually, to put it to the ballot to vote. In the first I knew of it, my sister kind of brought the petition for me to sign, and I thought, why not, so I signed it, and then I just kind of ignored it. But then, in October, I was asked to film in a commercial saying, “I’m Dr. Patty Giebink. I used to do abortions for Planned Parenthood, and now I’m asking you to vote yes for life.”
But it was a real turning point. I remember checking my whole month worth of mail, and as I’m throwing away the junk, [sorting] bills, personal stuff…
I had an invitation to the Alpha Center Christmas dinner.
Rose: And the Alpha Center is a pro-life, pregnancy resource center.
Giebink: Yes. It’s one of the first and longest running ones in South Dakota. 36 years and counting. And the founder has become a really good friend of mine, and truly, I attribute a lot of my progress to her and the other people that were so compassionate.
I got this letter to their dinner and I’m like, I hardly know these people. All I did was this commercial and I want to go. I really want to go. I desperately want to go, but man, they’re not gonna like me. You know, they might even hate me. They might put me off in a corner you know, to sit by myself, do I dare go? And I almost didn’t go. But then I went. And I remember going, and they had a table where you’d sign in, and they said, “Oh, Dr. Giebink!” They put me at the head table with all the big people. And I was just floored. I was just floored. Their compassion, and their love, their acceptance. It was just amazing. And now I’m a board member.
Rose: Amazing. Of the center, of Alpha.… What message would you give to other doctors who are out there, who are abortionists, who are committing abortions and two women, who are considering or getting abortions?
Giebink: Consider your alternatives. Go to a pregnancy resource center. Find out all your options. I once read – actually, it was after a friend committed suicide, I read, “don’t use a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
The pregnancy will be done at some point. It can’t be longer than nine months. And will you regret this? I think we have learned so much in, what, the last 20 years, that abortion has consequences. Physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological, and some women really need healing.
One time, I was sort of pushed into a room of post abortive women who… I think Leslie pushed me in, and she said, just go say a few words. I’m like, oh my gosh, what do I say? And then I realized, it’s not that different from what I was going through. The guilt, the shame, you know, kind of, the disbelief. And everybody needs to be healed. And it doesn’t help, when you have people who are so radically pro-life that they have lost compassion.
I’m still a believer in women’s health, and helping women through crises. I just don’t think that ending her pregnancy is the answer. That there are other, better answers. That there might be infertility, there might be depression, relationship problems, and how many guys that took their girlfriend in to get an abortion that said either you have this or I’m outta here, that left anyway?
Rose: That’s often the case. The end after abortion for the woman, she is now the mother of a child who is dead, and she’s back in all the same circumstances she was before, sometimes she’s worse. It has not made her life better. It’s only taken that life.
Giebink: We have to come to the right answer a different way. Why are there women in crisis pregnancies? Why are women thinking that abortion is there only alternative? How can we really help these women? Do they really know what they’re doing. It’s kind of like, one of the phrases is, women are smart, they can make up their own mind, you know, blah, blah, blah – but we’ve seen enough women who’ve regretted their choice. They’ve regretted it, and they’ve said, if I only knew. If I only know, I wouldn’t have done it. So why are they not having all the facts? Well, clearly not.
I mean, I was there. I mean, you only gave them enough information to get them to sign the forms and to do whatever the state told you to do, and then, boom, boom you’re done, you’re in recovery, you’re out the door. And there is no follow-up.
The neat thing about the Vote Yes for Life, even though we lost in the ballot box, all of a sudden, women were saying, maybe that’s why I feel so rotten. And they came to the Alpha Center in droves for postabortion counseling.
Rose: So after your video came out saying you used to be the abortionist in South Dakota at the Planned Parenthood, now you’re campaigning Vote Yes for Life, after that whole campaign, you saw a lot more women come in to the Alpha Center for postabortion healing.
Giebink: Yes.. Yes. It was overwhelming.… By ’08, 2008, when they had the second Vote Yes for Life, I think women just – they wanted to know more. They really wanted to know more. And to get them into programs that really work, because the guilt and the shame. If these women who are pro-abortion think it’s so great, then how come they don’t talk about their abortions? How come they don’t sit down at the table and say, “Oh, yeah, I had three abortions and I’m fine.” Nobody says anything.
I remember the last time I was testifying in our state legislature, and the pro-abortion, pro-choice women – we would always have to go first. And then they would go next. And I was just looking at them and I was just thinking, it’s the same tired old rhetoric. It’s my body, it’s my right. You know, it’s my right.… It’s not a right to kill your baby.… It’s a flawed law that was based on lies. That needs to go away.
Rose: Was there anything that forgiveness specifically, in the time that you read Planned Parenthood, or in residency, doing abortions that stuck with you. A case that you had, or an experience that you had with a patient.
Giebink: Oh there were many, there were many. When I look at it from this side, and I think, we didn’t really offer them any options. They came in the door – the locked door. They were buzzed in, they paid their money, they supposedly got counseling, I don’t know how much counseling they got other than working through the paperwork, and then they would be put in the waiting room until they could come back where I – they’d get called and put in my room and then, before you know it, they’re in recovery, and then their out the door.
There were a lot of stories that the women I saw, some women that barely spoke English – I had a woman who was all alone. She was 44 years old, she said, I raised my family and now I’m pregnant, I thought I was gonna go through menopause and I’m pregnant, and I can’t, I can’t have another baby. And she said, I didn’t tell anybody. I’m here all by myself. All by herself.
Rose: Did you see the young women? Teenagers?
Giebink: I saw lots of teenagers. I wish I had a nickel for every time I young woman said, if my dad knew I was pregnant, he’d kill me. And boy, I tell you, they would never – but that was so prevalent. You know, I can’t tell my parents.
Rose: Were there situations where you got information, or were suspicious about who’s getting these underage girls pregnant? I know there’s mandated reporting laws for sexual abuse, it’s something Live Action has investigated heavily over the years, was that ever triggered at your clinic where a report was made for suspected child abuse?
Giebink: No. No. I know now, having gone and testified at the state level, there’s a lot of coercion going on. I met a woman who, I didn’t do her abortion… that was done in the past. But when we were testifying, she said that her boyfriend held a gun to her head and said, “You will get this abortion. And I think there’s a lot of subtle coercion, parents who say – a high school girl gets pregnant – “if you don’t have this abortion, you’re out on the street. You can’t live here.” So there’s more subtle – but we really didn’t look into that. It was kind of like a line. Getting everything done, getting them out. Getting the next person in. It was just sort of – we didn’t dwell on things like that.
Being involved with a pregnancy resource center, I think we’ve seen and caught more of that. There’s an awareness. If an older man brings in a girl, a young woman, for a pregnancy test, and they’re, [if] you can hardly get them alone – I know the pregnancy resource center in Sioux Falls has picked up a lot of human trafficking victims, works with the FBI in doing that.…
I would like to see more people coming together and saying, what do we have in common? Women have situations, and they need realistic choices. They need information. They need compassion. They need help. We need parenting programs. What I really love about the Alpha Center is, they have mentoring programs, they have parenting programs that people go through, earn while you learn, so that they take some responsibility… And they learn how to parent. Some people have never – you know, they grew up in homes that were dysfunctional, they never learned how to parent, maybe they had drug problems, and they’re turning their lives around. We have more to do than save babies. We need to save women. We need to help women pick themselves up and find a life. And it’s going to take people from both sides.
Rose: What would you say to someone who’s maybe an abortionist, they’re a doctor, they’re doing abortions and they think they can’t change? This is who they are, this is what their past is, what their present is, what would would you say to them?
Giebink: What I would ask the person is, “How do you feel? How do you feel when you go home at night? How do you feel? Does taking a life give you peace?Share on Facebook