How Bakers Are Organizing to Raise Funds for Reproductive Rights
America’s pastry pushers are pulling out the sugar and flour for abortion organizations.
In the world of soft crumbs and silky buttercream, you might not think of cakes as a medium for advocacy. You would be wrong. This isn’t the first time in recent years that sugar and flour have been wielded for a cause.
Pastry chefs Paola Velez, Willa Pelini, and Rob Rubba co-founded Bakers Against Racism in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in 2020. The latest national outcry came when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24. The court’s 6-3 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization now makes abortion severely restricted or entirely illegal in several states.
“On Friday, when the news broke it was really devastating. I felt so dejected,” says Abi Balingit, a Brooklyn baker-activist behind The Dusky Kitchen blog and cookbook author of the forthcoming Mayumu: Filipino American Desserts Remixed. Balingit isn’t a stranger to putting her oven to good use. She started baking Filipino-inspired treats for nonprofits at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.
“After collecting myself, I was doing a lot more research on my own and see which abortions funds need my help the most, something that was intersectional,” she says.“So Kentucky Health Justice Network caught my eye because they have a program helping people getting reproductive and gender-affirming care.”
Balingit wanted to do something quick. She threw together a raffle for a single, two-layer cake with cute, retro designs. Donations from $10 to $100 came in, with offers to match up to $3,000 in one case. “At the end of the day it wasn’t about the odds of winning,” she says, but all told she raised $3,800 (not including matched donations).
“These days, I consider myself a radical baker and am thrilled to harness the power of baking—ironically, a traditional women’s household chore—to fight for our reproductive freedom,” LaRosa says. “I grew up hearing horror stories from my mother about the time before Roe was passed. Never in my life did I imagine that my generation would have to fight this same fight.”
According to reproductive justice organizations, this is exactly the kind of energy they need right now. “One of the best ways to channel the anger that so many folks are feeling is to get involved with established organizations like abortion funds, which are the closest connection to people getting abortions right now,” says Debasri Ghosh, managing director of the National Network of Abortion Funds. “With Roe now gone, the situation has gotten much worse. Right now, abortion funds need you to invest your time, your money, and your resources into the work that they’ve already been doing, and they need us to follow their leadership and expertise. In moments like these, we know folks’ natural tendency is to spring into action.”
LaRosa is already on it: “As an individual, I will contribute how I can. I’m mad as hell.”
In Atlanta, pastry chef Lindsay Morrison is likewise funneling her feelings into baking for a cause. “My community usually gets to see my sweet side, as we celebrate happy moments of life, and it felt very important to be able to share the anger we’re all feeling to come together to make a difference,” she says of her first-ever Instagram fundraiser. “I’m seeing a lot of anger and sadness, but also have seen so many women—and men—coming together and speaking about a subject that has been circled around so much shame. I hope the conversations that are happening now can change that.”
Karen Montero quickly but nonetheless passionately organized a Pro Roe Bake Sale in Dallas, benefiting Planned Parenthood of North Texas. After working through feelings of “general despair, hopelessness, fear,” Montero says, she thought about how this would impact peoples’ mental health. “I had an abortion when I was 29.” Rather than fall into that despair, though, Montero turned to her community.
A dozen Dallas notable chefs and bakers answered Montero’s call to action to contribute flaky pastries and covetable breads. “I was hesitant and really not sure that I was gonna be able to get this off the ground and then I got flooded with ‘How can I help?’” Bake sales, it seems, are everyone’s love language.
“I’m a fix-it right-now person and doing a bake sale was the easiest thing for me to do to make a small difference—outside of voting,” says baker and cookbook author Hetal Vasavada, who’s already sold out her Bans Off Our Bodies Bake Sale. She started her online bakery for Bakers Against Racism and hasn’t looked back. “Fundraising and baking is a small way to help ease my anxiety and do something about what’s going on.”
Wild West Access Fund board leaders Maureen Scott and Jakki Durón say fundraising efforts, such as these bake sales and Instagram raffles, are often welcome and easier for organizations to manage during hectic times when they’re slammed with requests, questions, and volunteers. Durón and Scott also share some sage advice: “Please, leave the Underground Railroad and Handmaid’s Tale references behind. Both of these examples are centered around white women and ignore the history of reproductive oppression and exploitation on Black communities.”
This particularly wretched moment in history doesn’t grant us the license to ignore how communities of color have long had their reproductive rights attacked. If these bakers and pastry chefs prove anything, it’s that we can pull through this together, in solidarity, one cake and many donations at a time.
How you can donate to reproductive organizations right now
Support these bakers who are making a big impact with their fundraising efforts.
• Abi Balingit, Brooklyn, New York: @theduskykitchen, Kentucky Health Justice Network
• Alex LaRosa, Brooklyn, New York: @alexlarosa, National Network of Abortion Funds
• My Body My Choice Bake Sale, Austin, Texas: Every Body Texas
• Becca Rea-Tucker, Austin, Texas: @thesweetfeminist, Repro Legal Defense Fund
• Hetal Vasavada, Bay Area, California: @milkandcardamom, National Network of Abortion Funds
• Karen Montero, Dallas, Texas: @haricotbeurre, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas
• Lindsay Morrison, Atlanta, Georgia: @itslindsmorrison, National Network of Abortion Funds