Arts & Culture News

Put Away the Ice Bucket and Try the Tacos and Beer Challenge for Abortion

If you haven't been inundated with the "ice bucket challenge," then obviously you're not on Facebook (congratulations) or perhaps dead. For the past few weeks, thousands of people, including some of your favorite celebrities, such as Benedict Cumberbatch and Patrick Stewart, have been pouring buckets of water and ice over their heads and posting videos of it online to raise awareness and money to research a cure for ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

And it's worked out pretty damn well, at least in the short term. According to the ALS Association, more than $70 million dollars has been raised by the viral campaign, and donations continue to flood in. Initially, if you chose to dump the bucket of ice water over your head, you were supposed to donate $10 to ALS research. If you refused, you donate $100.

Which left feminist, journalist and former Observer staffer Andrea Grimes, now a senior political reporter at RH Reality Check, a little confused. "After watching the ice bucket challenge, I kept seeing videos that never mentioned ALS and asking people about it who didn't know why ice buckets were a thing," she said via email. Then, she decided to spin off the idea to raise money for a cause that is close to her heart, abortion funding -- with one major twist.

"Why not give people something awesome to do instead of something really unpleasant to do, and why not tie it to a cause that is, sadly, unfairly maligned and stigmatized," said Grimes. "The 'challenge' of the taco or beer challenge really is solely the 'donate to an abortion fund' part, because eating tacos and drinking beers is easy. Overcoming the culturally imposed stigma that surrounds legal abortion care, however, is terribly difficult."

This challenge comes at a pretty critical time for abortion clinics in Texas. On September 1, the most stringent requirements of one of the country's harshest abortion laws goes into effect. If all goes according to the Legislature's plan, only six abortion clinics will remain open across the state.

Like the people behind the ALS Challenge, Grimes used social media's viral potential to spread the word about the #tacoorbeerchallenge. Users on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr were all encouraged to submit a photo of themselves eating a taco, drinking a beer, or both, and then donate to their local abortion fund. In just a few days, over 50 people have submitted videos and photos of the challenge, including sex columnist Dan Savage. In Grimes' dreamworld, Patrick Stewart would be the next celeb on the list.

She was quick to note, though, that her intent was not to take the focus away from the ALS challenge that inspired her own. "Most people's hearts and minds are big enough to understand that donating to an abortion fund doesn't mean you can't donate to ALS research, or to Operation Help Or Hush in Ferguson, or to your local animal shelter," she explains. "The Taco Or Beer Challenge isn't about mocking ALS, it's about eating tacos, drinking beer and donating to abortion funds."