Last Sunday, a rather sweet gathering occurred on the sidewalk down the street from me. (more)

I had heard about Cupcakes for Choice — a benefit for Planned Parenthood — from a friend, but it wasn’t until I put on my walking shoes and sauntered through my drizzly neighborhood that I got a better idea, then smell, then taste of what this was all about.

Warning: Continuing to read this post could cause extreme mouthwatering!

When I got to Mission Bicycle on Valencia Street between 18th and 19th, there was already quite a crowd gathered around the table tent.

Cupcakes for Choice

I know what you’re saying, “show me the goods!”

I worked my way through the throng of dessert worshipers and landed right on the Tahini Cocoa Mounds.

Cupcakes for Choice

Yup, that’s right, Tahini Cocoa Mounds, 100% vegan. The first order of business was to devour one of these soft and sticky little heaps of utter delight, before I could have a clear enough head to embark on my mission to peel away the many layers of this culinary approach to activism.

So before we get to the next sweets, let’s first chow down on some of the more substantial, albeit bitter chunks of information…

What is HR1?

HR1 is the Continuing Resolution that represents the most devastating assault on women’s health in Planned Parenthood’s 95-year history. The FY 2011 Continuing Resolution completely eliminates the nation’s family planning program, Title X. This program has provided millions of American women with lifesaving health care since Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1970. In pursuit of his extreme political agenda, Representative Mike Pence, with the full support of Speaker John Boehner, also offered an amendment to prohibit all Planned Parenthood health centers from receiving any federal funds for any purpose, including providing affordable cancer screenings, birth control, HIV testing, and testing and treatment for other sexually transmitted infections.

In the middle of this sea of motley dough ships I spotted Robin Doolin, a volunteer for the SF and East Bay Vegan Bakesales, who co-organized Cupcakes for Choice with Laura Hooper Beck of San Francisco Vegan Bakesales.

Cupcakes for Choice

She was quite busy keeping up with a ravenous clientele, but graciously took a few minutes to talk about what they were up to.

She explained that the idea for events like Cupcakes for Choice was inspired by the worldwide vegan bake sale, a movement now in its 3rd year and spreading like wildfire. Through what they call Baketivism — community activism with baking — they introduce people to the joy and tastiness of vegan foods, support important causes and promote the benefits of an animal-free diet.

Did I say tasty?

Cupcakes for Choice

Or joy?

Cupcakes for Choice

Don’t care. Just give me one.

Cupcakes for Choice

Robin went on to explain that they support all kinds of causes, sometimes international organizations, but a lot of local ones. They also try to balance one animal organization with one human organization. For example, two weeks ago they did a bake sale for Home at Last, a local animal rescue foundation, and the Lyon-Martin Health Services for women and transgender people on Market Street.

But this one I could tell was particularly close to Robin’s heart.

“After the House of Representatives voted to cut all federal funding to Planned Parenthood on February 18, we really felt like we needed to do something,” she said. “There’s an organization called Cupcakes for Life which I feel very strongly against, not because they’re a pro-life organization, but because they exploit children for their cause. They make kids hand out cupcakes in school and say things like, ‘Don’t you feel grateful you can eat this cupcake because you weren’t aborted.’ That’s why we had the idea of Cupcakes for Choice, where we would have adults baking and show people that these family health clinics don’t just do abortions. Only 3 percent of the services that Planned Parenthood provides are abortions. The other 97 percent are STD screenings, AIDS prevention, cancer screenings, gynecological exams, birth control, etc.”

Meanwhile another baker had arrived…

Cupcakes for Choice

to drop off some vegan chocolate cherry cakes…

Cupcakes for Choice

drawing the attention of the California News Service, a video project through UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism…

Cupcakes for Choice

Asked how she first got into baketivism, Robin said, “I wanted to do something that was more approachable and easier to participate in than a protest or writing angry letters. I thought, ‘everyone loves baked goods, what a great way to draw attention to an issue.'”

Approachable? Come closer…

Cupcakes for Choice

Earl Grey anyone?

Cupcakes for Choice

Somebody stop this!

Cupcakes for Choice

Though not all the donated baked goods were 100% vegan, I was really impressed by how passionate everyone was not only about making easy-on-the-earth-and-on-the-body delights but about pushing back against Congress’ current all out assault on women in firm but warm spirit. It’s a clear contrast to the hateful screams of “baby killers” from the religious fundamentalists that take up so much air and add nothing to a complex issue. So while our elected officials are placating a small minority of the most radical and ideology-driven zealots with these cynical cuts to women’s health services, it’s great to see such an outpouring of sweet support for Planned Parenthood, and by extension, all the women and families who cannot afford these basic health services thanks to our atrocious for-profit health insurance system.

“All of today’s proceeds will go to Planned Parenthood,” says Robin, and with a smile on her face she adds: “People are coming by and buying cupcakes, and they’re sometimes not even realizing it’s vegan. They often say, “This is the best cupcake or doughnut I’ve ever had,” and then they’re shocked to hear it’s vegan. It’s great to expose people to new foods.”

Like Tahini Cocoa Mounds…

Cupcakes for Choice

Please sign the petition to stand with Planned Parenthood against the Pence Amendmend to HR. 1.

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All photos by Sven Eberlein

cross-posted at Daily Kos and A World of Words