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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




From Out of Death’s Shadow

By Scott Harrup
Jan. 22, 2012

For the Pakistani mother of five, giving birth held little mystery and less fear. She was grateful that Christians had established a hospital nearby. Their doctors and medical resources meant a significant increase in her chances of delivering a healthy baby.

The patient’s optimism appeared to be rewarded at first. Her sixth child came into the world without complication under the care of a local midwife working at the hospital. But her post-delivery bleeding soon became a point of concern. The midwife called in visiting physician Dr. Patti Giebink.

“We gave the mother the usual available medicines,” Giebink remembers, “but the bleeding continued. The head of the hospital, a general surgeon, soon joined us, and his wife went to the lab to donate a unit of blood for the patient.”

There was no blood bank in the region, and that slim gift of life would have to be sufficient. Surgery without additional blood on hand would be impossible. Still, the woman continued to weaken.

In desperation, the medical team placed her in a neoprene-and-Velcro pressure suit.

“We had done all that was humanly possible,” Giebink says. “Doctors, nurses, midwives … we all joined together and prayed and prayed and prayed.”

The bleeding slowed. As a precaution, the woman was kept in the pressure suit for another day.

“Postpartum hemorrhage is the leading cause of maternal death in developing countries,” Giebink says. “By the grace of God, this woman lived and went home to raise her children.”

It was a double victory. Another mother and child made it home in a part of the world where either one could have been a casualty. Healthy moms and babies are twin passions Giebink pursues from a position of dependent faith.

“When I’m overseas,” she says, “I feel closest to God; it’s where I am most dependent on Him. Very quickly I get to the end of myself and lean wholly on Him.”


South Dakota activist

Closer to home, the 61-year-old native of Sioux Falls, S.D., battles another threat to the health and lives of mothers and babies — elective abortion.

South Dakota law limits most abortions to the first trimester, and Giebink has worked closely with pro-life advocates to support legislation to control the practice more stringently. It’s a back-and-forth battle.

Pro-life legislation last year called for a 72-hour waiting period before an abortion and insisted on clear counseling for the mother regarding the life of her child. The ink was barely dry from Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s signature before Planned Parenthood announced a lawsuit. That battle continues to work its way through the courts.

Giebink says her pro-life convictions are an expression of her identity as a follower of Christ. The Bible, she insists, clearly portrays life as God’s gift, never to be taken for granted.

“God is a God of life,” she says. “That’s His heart. He doesn’t create life to have us just destroy it. He’s sovereign, and life is His gift. In Psalms He talks about forming us in the womb.”

While encountering plenty of pro-choice colleagues in the medical field, Giebink is grateful for life-affirming friends at her church, Water of Life Assembly of God in Chamberlain, S.D. (Reggie Ballard, senior pastor).

Giebink began attending the church in the spring of 2001, accepted Christ as her Savior in the ensuing months, and was baptized in the nearby Missouri River that August.

At the time, no one at Water of Life realized that just five years earlier Giebink had been South Dakota’s only abortionist.


“Once I turn this on, we won’t be able to talk …”

Patti Giebink does not remember the first abortion she performed. There have simply been too many. But the procedure would have taken place sometime in 1988 at a women’s clinic operated by Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis, where Giebink did her residency.

The university required residents to spend part of their hours at the clinic, although they could opt out of performing abortions.

“I wasn’t looking to opt out,” Giebink says. “I was looking for experience.”

Giebink was meticulous in her work, and soon became the go-to resident for more difficult procedures requiring a hospital stay. One of her IU instructors had authored several chapters on abortion techniques in the curriculum she studied.

Giebink’s pro-choice views had been forged through family influences and the friendships she made while earning her M.D. at the University of South Dakota School of Medicine in Vermillion and Sioux Falls.

“I have relatives who are adamantly pro-choice, and I got connected with pro-choice women who became my supporting network,” she recalls. “They were always fighting for abortion rights. The only doctor doing abortions in South Dakota at the time helped get me into the IU program.”

Returning to South Dakota after her residency, Giebink established a personal practice that kept her focused on women’s health, including the delivery of healthy babies. But when the doctor who helped her get into IU was preparing to retire, he contacted her with an attractive offer. He had sold his practice to Planned Parenthood and had recommended Giebink to help meet the state’s caseload of abortions.

“When I started working at Planned Parenthood part time in 1995,” Giebink says, “I worked at my own practice most of the week, and then one day a week I would go and do abortions. I was still delivering babies in my practice, and the next day I would go do abortions — which now seems so incongruous. How could I possibly do that?”

Giebink discovered that every part of the registration process at the Planned Parenthood facility pointed the mother toward terminating her pregnancy. Patients paid for abortions up front in full before they were even allowed to see a doctor. Giebink was told to leave any counseling to others (yet there was no certified counselor on staff) and simply think of herself as a technician.

“If a mother had any questions, I tried to answer them in the few minutes we had before the procedure,” Giebink says. “The suction machine was too loud after that. I would explain, ‘Once I turn this on, we won’t be able to talk.’”


Guilt and redemption

Giebink sold her practice and worked for Planned Parenthood full time in 1996. But 1997 would become her final year as an abortionist. She was beginning to discover just how far the abortion industry was willing to go to ensure a termination.

The Planned Parenthood facility offered ultrasounds for mothers who wanted to determine to what extent their pregnancies had progressed. One day Giebink walked into the ultrasound room to discover a young woman whose late-term pregnancy was obvious at a glance.

“I looked at her and realized she was far beyond the 13- to 14-week limit that was legal in South Dakota,” Giebink says. “When I performed the ultrasound, I measured her at 25 weeks and a day.”

Even with her pro-choice frame of reference, Giebink says, she could not deny the mother was carrying a baby — not the mass of fetal “tissue” Giebink had tried to envision during the abortions she had performed.

“I was honest with her,” Giebink says. “I told her that at 25 weeks, not only would she be unable to get an abortion in South Dakota, but I was unsure where she could get one in the country.”

The young mother was unfazed. She assured Giebink she could get the abortion in Kansas as long as she was under 26 weeks. She was preparing for the trip and just wanted the ultrasound to verify the baby’s gestational age.

“I was shocked,” Giebink says. “I processed the paperwork. For all I know, that mother went to Kansas as she planned.”

Giebink parted ways with Planned Parenthood. In time, she would come to know Christ as her Savior, would re-establish her private practice with another pro-life doctor, and would travel to some of the poorest corners of the world to offer her medical expertise to mothers and babies.

The journey has been difficult. The pain, when she thinks of the lives she has ended, is almost unbearable. But she clings to her belief in God as the Author of life as well as the Source of forgiveness.

And she prays for others who are still blind to those truths.

When George Tiller, a prominent Kansas practitioner of late-term abortions, was murdered in 2009, Giebink received calls from friends concerned for her safety.

“I could have been Dr. Tiller,” Giebink says. “There, but for the grace of God, go I. If someone had killed me in July of 1997, I don’t know where I would be. If we love these unborn babies, then we have to love people who are on the wrong track, regardless of what they are doing, because God loves them.”

No sinner is beyond redemption, she insists, and no life is too small to protect.


SCOTT HARRUP is managing editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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