willajeanbun

A pecan-topped cinnamon roll from Willa Jean bakery and cafe starts the morning in downtown New Orleans.

New laws restricting access to abortion in Louisiana and a number of other states have proven sharply divisive. In New Orleans though, they have also inspired solidarity in one corner of the food world, which is now rallying behind reproductive rights advocates with a charity bake sale.

An event dubbed “Just Cause – A Boozy Bake Sale for Reproductive Rights” will raise money for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and the New Orleans Abortion Fund.

Chefs, bakers and bartenders from more than 50 New Orleans restaurants and bars will participate, joined by other businesses that serve the hospitality sector, including artists, designers, photographers and suppliers.

At Just Cause, scheduled for June 22, from 3 to 7 p.m. at the retail space Magazine Merchant House (1150 Magazine St.), they’ll serve a variety of baked goods and drinks. Attendees can buy tickets at the door to exchange for the various offerings, and other merchandise will be available for sale. Admission is free.

The gathering is led by Mason Hereford and Lauren Agudo of Turkey and the Wolf and Molly’s Rise and Shine, Megan Forman of Gracious Bakery + Café and event coordinator Mandi Bordelon. The list of participants is a roster of modern New Orleans dining, from James Beard award-winning chefs to pop-up bakeries (see details on the event's Facebook page).

The idea is based on similar chef-led bake sales supporting Planned Parenthood in other cities. In New York, Café Altro Paradiso started its guest-chef bake sale in 2017. This year’s edition raised a reported $96,000.

A Denver bake sale last week reportedly drew 1,500 people and raised $25,000.

Unlike those events, however, Just Cause arrives in a state where abortion laws are on the verge of changing. In May, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion bills. If upheld by the courts, the measure would ban abortions at about six weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for victims of rape and incest.

The law easily passed the state’s legislature and was cheered as a victory by pro-life advocates.   

In New Orleans, however, the measure has drawn censure from the city council, which issued a symbolic condemnation, and stirred fears that it could erode efforts to draw new investment and jobs to the area. Nationally, other business leaders have voiced opposition to the restrictive laws. A long list of CEOs from companies including Bloomberg L.P. and Yelp signed a letter titled "Don't Ban Equality," which ran as a full page ad in the New York Times on Monday.  

In New Orleans, Bordelon said the bake sale idea immediately drew interest in the local restaurant community and the list of participants soon hit capacity. 

“The New Orleans restaurant community is a big old family, and the crew has united on an issue we feel very passionate about,” Hereford said in a press release. “The positive energy is contagious, and the turnout is nothing short of badass."

Just Cause – A Boozy Bake Sale for Reproductive Rights

June 22, 3-7 p.m.

Magazine Merchant House, 1150 Magazine St.


Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.