I didn’t want to think about the past — my time as a doctor with Planned Parenthood and my two failed marriages. I wanted to rise above what I’d done and enter a kinder, more promising tomorrow. A second chance. Don’t we all deserve that?
So I ignored the past, along with all the changes that were out of my control, and I moved to a different town from where I’d performed abortions. Shortly after I started attending church, I went on my first medical mission trip with friends.
A Transformational Journey
This trip introduced me to the needs of people in remote areas of India. The villagers there greeted us, and seminary students acted as our translators. As our medication rations were depleted at breakneck speed, I felt like a raindrop in a drought, with acres of thirsty fields before me.
Much of the time, my co-workers and I relied on improvisational treatments. During an orphan program, the vision test used a motorcycle parked about 15 feet away. If the child couldn’t read the license plate, we sent him or her to the optometrist.
I also became friends with our translators, such as Romy. He gave his testimony at a clinic and talked about his faith in words I’d never heard before: “How I came to know Jesus in my heart . . .”
His words silenced all my thoughts. Head knowledge (of Scripture) and heart revelation (loving Jesus) were two completely different things. I had started to see this concept in the church I was attending, but Romy’s testimony increased my understanding of having a relationship with Jesus.
When the mission trip came to an end, I sensed the gratitude but also the disappointment of the villagers. I also had a profound realization: God made each person I met in His likeness. In the midst of their poverty and daily struggles, He loved them. A person’s standard of living had nothing to do with his or her value in God’s eyes.
My trip to India also helped me begin to understand my true calling. I felt purpose again, and I took away more from this mission trip than I gave.
The Aroma of God
With every future mission trip I took—India, Cambodia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon—my perspective widened. My love for people grew, and my relationship with God changed as He drew me ever closer to himself.
From the beginning of my search for truth, God led me through the uncompromising winepress of experiences. And I became rich and fragrant nestled in the character and grace of Jesus Christ.
My job as a doctor was to save life. But what about the life that has no voice? What about those we can’t physically touch, listen to or speak with? Did they matter? These trips abroad made the answer abundantly clear—those people matter as much as you and I do.
Freedom in Christ
My path forward was grace-filled, but it wasn’t easy. I no longer performed abortions, but I was identified and judged in the court of public opinion on both sides of the pro-life debate. Despite the constant criticism, I chose to give my testimony at events and churches.
In 2007, I stood in front of about 3,000 people, mentally fumbling for what to say. But then the words rolled out. “I’m Patti, and I used to do abortions for Planned Parenthood.” There was an audible gasp in the room. “But now I’m saved and set free by the blood of Jesus.”
The crowd stood and cheered. I found that our intimate love story with Jesus brings the capacity for transformation—of ourselves and others—as we share Him with the world.
What changed me from being an abortion provider to a pro-life advocate? Was it people carrying around disturbing photos of babies killed by abortion? Was it being called names and having my life threatened? Was it the hate-filled words yelled at me? No.
The more others tried to stop me, the more determined I was to continue performing abortions. But God used these experiences to empty me of myself so He could fill me with His Spirit. He even appointed a nun to pray for me in secret. That nun was Sister Josita Schwab.
Dr. Giebink’s book and more stories of forgiveness and restoration:
While I was working at Planned Parenthood, Sister Josita read a newspaper article in which I stated that it was not my wish to perform abortions full time. My words gave her hope that my heart was open to change.
If this Dr. Patti is sitting on the fence, Sister Josita thought, let’s see if God can push her over.
And so this nun began to diligently pray for me by name. For 10 years, Sister Josita prayed for me. Then one day, a decade later, she watched TV coverage about the need for stricter pro-life laws in South Dakota, and she saw a female physician speak for the right-to-life movement.
When my name was mentioned, Sister Josita began to cry. God had heard her prayers. I know this because she sent me a letter later that year. I felt the same astonishment, joy and humility in response to her prayers being answered.
A Changed Woman
During my lengthy conversion from abortion provider to pro-life spokeswoman, I had to investigate the hard questions and thoughtfully consider various opinions about protecting life, along with the consequences of what I had done. As I listened, the Holy Spirit’s voice grew louder, and I reached out to its source. Only then was I changed.
After a lifetime of mistakes and deliverance from them, I can say forthrightly and without a doubt that no one is beyond redemption. No matter what you’ve done or failed to do, all is not lost. Our divine Redeemer loves you, and if you choose to trust Him with your life, He will make “all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28).