Lowcountry woman shares her ‘difficult abortion decision’

The South Carolina Supreme Court has struck down the state’s “Fetal Heartbeat Law,” ruling it violates the state constitution.
Published: Jan. 5, 2023 at 11:17 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 6, 2023 at 4:14 AM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - It’s been a little over nine months since Lowcountry native Jill Hartle found out she was pregnant. Now, she should be celebrating the birth of her first child.

However, with a severe birth defect that would have ultimately led to her child’s death, she remains childless.

She says South Carolina abortion laws did not make this process any easier.

The South Carolina Supreme Court has struck down the state’s “Fetal Heartbeat Law,” ruling it violates the state constitution. That law banned most abortions after about six weeks – allowing for limited exceptions beyond that point.

However, some women still had to face repercussions from diagnosed fetal anomalies, unexpected birth defects that come during pregnancy.

“I’m so angry that my state let me down,” Hartle said.

In April 2022, Jill and Matt Hartle found out they were pregnant with their first child.

“At the 18-week anatomy scan, my doctor came in to tell us we had a really horrible diagnosis,” Hartle said.

The diagnosis was severe hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which affects normal blood flow to the heart. There is no cure and at this level, the outcomes are often deadly. Hartle says you typically don’t find out these diagnoses until you’re at least 18 weeks into pregnancy.

“So, when they have all of these really short bans on terminations, we can’t make educated decisions that’s best for our children,” Hartle said.

Hartle said she did not want her child to suffer, so they searched for a place that allowed abortions.

At the time, South Carolina had passed the fetal heartbeat bill, which did not allow most abortions after 6-weeks.

“You find out that you’re losing your daughter, and yet you still have to figure out all the logistics of where you need to get to and make sure that it’s a safe place that you’re going to and then coordinate all the travel while you’re grieving the loss of your child,” Hartle said.

Before completing the procedure in Washington, D.C., Hartle had to wait two weeks for an appointment.

“The thought of being forced to keep a child full-term knowing that they’re not going to survive is so cruel,” Hartle said. “I did it for 49 days and I had to walk through this world visibly pregnant. People congratulating me, telling me how exciting and how cute my little bump was, knowing that my child wasn’t going to survive.”

After this experience, Hartle decided to create a support group for other women that have had unborn children diagnosed with fetal anomalies. It is called the Ivy Grace Project, named after the girl she was supposed to have.

“I’m a Christian, conservative woman who prayed so desperately for her to be healed,” Hartle said. “But I also knew, sometimes, when you pray for healing that that means they go to heaven. And that was the only thing that I could do for her to protect her from any pain and suffering on this Earth.”

She says it’s close to impossible to imagine what it’s like until you’re living it.

“You never know what you’re going to do until you’re in those shoes,” Hartle said. “And so, for someone to sit behind the TV screen and say, ‘How dare her do that.’ Sit in my chair and sit in my shoes for five minutes and go through what I went through, and I guarantee you would completely understand.”

Hartle says she’s working on turning the Ivy Grace Project into a nonprofit. She says she wants to stand in front of the state legislature, share her story and never allow what happened to her happen to another woman again.

The Ivy Grace Project gives a statement in response to today’s ruling:

Earlier today, the South Carolina Supreme Court struck down my state’s six-week abortion ban, with Justice Kaye Hearn writing in the lead opinion that the “state constitutional right to privacy extends to a woman’s decision to have an abortion.”

Although this is a huge win for women in my home state, I remain committed to educating our lawmakers and the public on the impact that fetal anomalies have on women throughout all phases of their pregnancies.

I will work my hardest to make sure women never have to go through the pain and trauma I went through - forcing me to wait 49 days following my daughter’s fetal anomaly diagnosis, and requiring me to travel out of state to get the abortion I needed.

The most important takeaway from today is that women’s healthcare should be treated with privacy and without government intervention or opinions. Until all southern states follow South Carolina Court’s lead today, the small but mighty team behind Ivy Grace Project will continue to fight for fair and compassionate abortion care.