Chapel Hill sign
Chapel Hill sign by Adrian Cable is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

On June 30, less than a week after the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated women’s constitutional right to abortion, The Local Reporter elected to print an editorial from Edward Marshall, who is involved in efforts to stop the development project at 828 MLK Blvd. In his letter, Marshall compares Chapel HIll’s seven town council members and the mayor who voted to explore whether housing can be safely placed on the 828 MLK site with the members of the Supreme Court who voted to ban abortion.

This is stunningly offensive and a wildly inappropriate metaphor. 

We have been critical in the past of The Local Reporter’s unorthodox approach to reporting, but are nevertheless taken aback by the paper’s decision to run this editorial.

People with uteruses lost a constitutional right on Friday. Pregnancy, already a fraught time, is now terrifying. Women who miscarry may find themselves under legal investigation for illegal abortion. In some states, for a woman with an ectopic pregnancy, nothing can be done to terminate the pregnancy, even though there is no way for an ectopic embryo to be carried to term, until the woman is near death. Doctors are not going to be willing to act earlier when they risk ten years in prison and the loss of their medical license. Some states are investigating ways to keep women from crossing their borders to get abortions elsewhere. This is terrifying, dystopian, and life threatening.

By contrast, the decision regarding the 828 site was to put forward a “draft development plan in order to assess the feasibility and safety of construction and develop a specific remediation plan” for the site.

As Mayor Pro Tem Karen Stegman pointed out in her blog post outlining the nine-year process, Town Council is carefully considering how to move forward with the land around 828. As I noted in a previous TBB blog post, this process has unfolded methodically and with input from subject-matter experts. And the council members who voted in favor of this plan will face election in the near future.

Neither Marshall nor anyone else is going to be arrested or lose their liberty for any actions they take in opposition to the plan. Not a single person is having their fundamental autonomy stripped away and placed at the mercy of legislators and prosecutors. To compare the council’s vote to the Dobbs decision demonstrates an incredible lack of perspective.

It’s sad this type of overwrought rhetoric is being used against a preliminary decision by eight of the nine members of an elected town council.

Update: Marshall also emailed Rep. Graig Meyer (NC-50), who CCd the Chapel Hill Town Council’s public email address in his response:

Geoff Green, AICP lives in Chapel Hill. In his day job he's a practicing urban planner; in his spare time he rides his electric bike around town and advocates for improved facilities so that everyone can...