“But I was Empty”: The Story of a Doctor Who Left Planned Parenthood
by Sarah Terzo
The pro-life group Live Action did an interview with former abortionist Patti Giebink, who did abortions at Planned Parenthood for three years after performing abortions in her residency. Giebink is now a pro-life activist.
Giebink entered medical school with strong pro-choice beliefs, which she now says she never questioned or really examined. She first did abortions at the Well Women’s Clinic. She describes one abortion she did on twins at 17 weeks. By 17 weeks, a preborn baby has all his or her parts and organs. He or she has a beating heart and brain waves, is already right or left-handed, responds to sound and touch, yawns, sucks her thumb, and has unique fingerprints different from those of anyone else who ever lived or ever will live.
Abortions at this stage are done by D&E, where the abortionist reaches into the womb with forceps and dismembers the child, pulling him or her out piece by piece. The last part to be removed is the head, which must be crushed to be extracted. Giebink recalls:
Probably the most difficult abortion that I had done – I had done quite a few up to that point – 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 ….to dilate the cervix, to get all the tissue out, body parts – make sure you have everything. … [W]e 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. … from my standpoint, it’s twice as hard as just doing a singleton. … And I thought, this is, this is a bit much.
The experience of aborting the twins, however, did not cause Giebink to question what she was doing. According to her, “I never really thought it was wrong. …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.”
Giebink describes her three years at Planned Parenthood as “very tumultuous. “There were no health department inspections of the facility while she was there. She says, “it wasn’t the cleanest clinic.” In fact, Giebink recalls:
[A]fter 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 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 [who worked at the center] 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.
At first, Giebink performed abortions one day a week at Planned Parenthood while maintaining her own practice. She later went to work for Planned Parenthood full-time. None of her private practice patients continued to see her. Other abortionists have spoken about the stigma of providing abortions and the fact that many standard OB/GYN patients don’t want to see an abortionist for routine care, or to deliver their own babies.
According to Giebink, Planned Parenthood provided no prenatal care and did ultrasounds only to date pregnancies before abortions. Planned Parenthood scheduled abortions as often as they had enough patients to make it profitable:
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.
Giebink was discouraged from talking too much to the women. The “counseling” was done before she saw the patient. She says:
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.
Giebink only spent a few minutes with her patients, despite the commonly repeated claim “abortion is between a woman and her doctor.”
Giebink sometimes encountered women who were reluctant or ambivalent about having abortions, and she encouraged them to reschedule. Planned Parenthood’s administration did not like this. Giebink says:
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 was 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.
Giebink doesn’t know if the workers at her facility told women they would not get their money back if they left without having the abortion. But it seemed clear that they were not getting thorough counseling. She wrote of her time at Planned Parenthood, “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.”
Giebink eventually left Planned Parenthood but remained pro-abortion. But the memory of what she had done weighed on her conscience. She felt “empty”:
I was kind of searching . . . 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. . . . 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.
She got involved in a small Christian church. But she had deeply buried her experience performing abortions. It wasn’t until she went to a church healing retreat that she spoke about her past for the first time. The people at the retreat were welcoming and kind, and she slowly gained the confidence to start speaking out against abortion and, with encouragement, to get involved in the pro-life movement.
Now she says:
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 their only alternative? How can we really help these women? … [W]e’ve seen enough women who’ve regretted their choice. They’ve regretted it, and they’ve said, if I only knew. If I only knew, I wouldn’t have done it. So why are they not having all the facts?
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.
When asked what she would say to those performing abortions now, she responded, “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?”
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