Eight Chicago restaurants have come together to respond to a recent surge in anti-abortion legislation in states including Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and Ohio with an eight-week event to raise funds for charities that support reproductive rights. Eight Weeks for Access runs from June 15 through August 3, and participants are Red and White Wines, Café Marie-Jeanne, Lula Café, Cellar Door Provisions, Middle Brow Bungalow, Four Letter Word Coffee, Whiner Beer, and Letherbee Distillers.
Each participant is offering a menu item that benefits a range of organizations, including Alabama’s Yellowhammer Fund, Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund, the New Orleans Abortion Fund, and the Kentucky Health Justice Network. Brewery and distillery participants are offering in-restaurant discounts on their wares. After August 3, participating restaurants will nominate another venue to join in the next eight weeks of the fundraiser. Founder and Red and White Wines chef de cuisine Jamie Davis said he’d like to keep the initiative going and even expand outside Chicago.
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#EightWeeksforAccess is an effort to get funding into the hands of organizations who directly help people in need find access to safe and legal abortion. For the duration of Eight Weeks, beginning Saturday 6/15, you can contribute to these organizations by supporting @redandwhitewines, @bungalow_by_middlebrow, @cellardoorprovisions, @cafe_marie_jeanne, @4lwcoffee, @whinerbeer, and @letherbee. Look for items on the menu of these businesses with a note next to them indicating that the proceeds will go toward Eight Weeks for Access. At the end of these Eight Weeks, each of us will pass the torch to another Chicago business so that the effort and support for people who need safe and legal access can continue and spread. You can also make donations directly to @yellowfund (AL) @gwafund (MO) @mrff_funds_abortions (MS) @whoohio (OH) @neworleansabortionfund (LA) arc-southeast.org (GA) kentuckyhealthjusticenetwork.com (KY)
After reading reports that Missouri’s last abortion clinic may close, Davis, a Missouri native, said he felt shocked and stuck. “I thought about my sisters, all the women in that state who I love and need to be able to make their own decisions about what they do with their bodies,” Davis said in an interview.
He posted about his frustrations to Instagram, but then felt inspired to do more. He floated the idea for the fundraiser at a staff meeting, and then began rallying other restaurant industry members to join. He also worked with local Planned Parenthood physician Laura Laursen and her husband to learn more about fundraising and reaching organizations that can make the most significant impact in affected states, where much of the anti-legislation is currently facing court challenges.
Fifty percent of proceeds from Four Letter Word’s Eight Weeks for Access blend, as well as $1 from each “Health Drink” sale. At Cafe Marie-Jeanne, a portion of proceeds from sales of Whiner Beer and a Negroni will go to the fundraiser, as well as $1 from each soup de jour bowl (a rotating seasonal vegan soup). Red and White Wines is including its marinated olives with citrus and coriander, as well as a Meinklang skin contact wine by the glass or bottle, Manzanilla sherry, and Letherbee gin and tonics. Menu items are marked with a note indicating that a portion of proceeds will go to Eight Weeks for Access.
Participants decided that rather than holding several big events, they would take a “slow burn” approach, raising funds over the course of eight weeks and celebrating the initial run with “the Big Party,” an all-day fundraiser, on August 11.
Restaurant owners and chefs often use their visibility as a tool to reach the public and raise money. In April, more than 60 restaurants joined forces to draw attention to domestic violence and fundraise for Connections for Abused Women and Their Children (CAWC).
“It is an important time to make our voices heard,” said Mike Simmons of Cafe Marie-Jeanne. “If you have a public platform, a space where people meet and you have the ability to reach hundreds and hundreds of guests every week, that can make our voices heard on the matter...We can talk with our voices, we can talk with our platforms, we can talk with our dollars, and that ultimately actually makes a difference.”
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed legislation last week called the Reproductive Health Act that deems abortion access a “fundamental right” for Illinois residents and requires that insurers treat abortion like any other medical procedure. The law will also protect abortion access in Illinois if the Supreme Court overturns landmark 1973 decision Roe v. Wade. Spurred by the flurry of anti-abortion laws and bills across the country, Pritzker said the law makes Illinois one of the most progressive states on the issue of abortion and reproductive rights, the Chicago Tribune reported. Other states working to expand abortion rights include Maine, Nevada, New York, and Vermont.
Restaurant owners interested in joining the effort can email Davis at email@example.com