On Monday, Austin, Texas–based journalist Andrea Grimes started asking people on Twitter to explain the Ice Bucket Challenge, viral videos of regular people and celebrities dousing themselves and each other with ice water to raise money for ALS research. She knew that people were pouring water on their heads, but she didn’t understand why.
“Dumping a bucket of ice on yourself seems miserable,” she thought. So Grimes donated some money to fund ALS research and opted to stay dry. As she was about to head out for a beer and a taco, she wondered if she could pose a similar challenge to raise money for abortion providers—just without all that frigid water.
On Twitter, she joked:
I hereby challenge y’all to eat a taco or drink a beer and give money to an abortion fund #tacoorbeerchallenge— Andrea Grimes (@andreagrimes) August 18, 2014
THE TERRIBLE PART IS THAT YOU HAVE TO EAT A TACO OR DRINK A BEER get it #tacoorbeerchallenge— Andrea Grimes (@andreagrimes) August 18, 2014
A viral fund-raising challenge was born. #TacoOrBeerChallenge asks participants to donate money to an abortion provider, go out for a taco and a beer, and then tell everyone on social media about it.
Silly? Sure. Tongue-in-cheek? Yes. But Grimes loves this challenge because it addresses a real stigma.
“A lot of times even very pro-choice people will talk about abortion in these hushed tones,” she said.
The complicated emotions many women feel about abortion are real. The standard narrative around having one is secrecy and regret, but the challenge shows there’s room for a little levity in conversations about how to keep the procedure accessible and safe.
Many abortion providers are cash-strapped nonprofits feeling the effects of new and expanding antiabortion laws across the United States. They rely on donations—and now, tacos, beer, and silly videos are one way to reduce the stigma around the issue and get more people to donate.
The challenge is all about choice. “Pick your beer; pick your taco; pick your abortion fund,” Grimes said. She doesn’t know exactly how much people have donated. The Lilith Fund in Texas and the Texas Equal Access Fund have both told her they’ve seen a bump in funding this week. More than 50 people have posted to a Tumblr for the challenge, and the hashtag #tacoorbeerchallenge has been tweeted hundreds of times.
Grimes said she is “interested in getting people talking about abortion funds and being public about their support.” She thinks that supporting abortion providers is still too controversial for any celebrities to take the challenge. But she calls herself a “huge Star Trek nerd,” so if she could choose one, it would be Patrick Stewart.
Abortion clinics across the country have taken a hit during the past five years. In Mississippi, there’s only one left. Five have shut down in Ohio since that state passed a law forbidding public hospitals from making patient transfer agreements with abortion clinics. Alabama providers are embroiled in a fierce court battle to stay open, and clinics in Kansas and Texas have also closed because of new restrictions.
In light of the crackdown, “donations are important,” Grimes said, and she’s excited by all the public support for clinics. “It’s so nice to see people being open and supportive and brave about funding abortion.”