Since its launch in 2007, Vélib’s public bike rentals in Paris have proven to be a hit with tourists and locals as a hassle-free way to get around the French capital, especially in summer when the metro trains are hot and crowded.
But this year, popular bikes have inadvertently become embroiled in a controversy that has its roots in a fierce debate raging at the heart of French and European society.
And in recent weeks, activists have turned some of Vélib’s bikes into billboards displaying unexpected messages from a rebellious ad campaign opposing abortion rights.
The campaign sparked outrage, with politicians and women’s rights groups condemning the move.
The stickers first started appearing in May, when Parisians and tourists awoke to find public bikes in the neighborhood covered in decals showing a fetus growing into a happy-looking boy riding a bike with the slogan: “And if I let him live?”
The badges prompted a backlash from government officials, who were approached by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo “Unacceptable and illegal.” France’s gender equality minister, Isabelle Roma, made the pledge to the country I will not allow anyone to undermine abortion rights.
The guerrilla campaign is the work of a group called Les Survivants, according to a statement it posted on its website after the posters began appearing. The group says its name refers to people born after 1975 who have “escaped” the threat of abortion, which became legal in France that year.
In a statement issued on May 24, the group said it was in response to efforts to make abortion a constitutional right in France.
“At a time when a proposed law aims to enshrine abortion in the Constitution, survivors “We have decided to act on behalf of all those we miss,” the statement said. “We will not tolerate a dualistic supreme standard in which abortion becomes a fundamental right, like the right to life.”
Susie Rogtmann, a spokeswoman for the French National Rally for Women’s Rights, said the campaign showed France’s urgent need to secure abortion laws.
Rougetman, a feminist since 1974, told CNN that the people who put up the posters “would be thrilled to reconsider abortion rights.”
“We are concerned, we are cautious because we know that this right can always be challenged, and the United States has proven that,” Rochtmann said.
US Supreme Court 2022 Roe v. Wade case overturnedThe ruling that made abortion a federal constitutional right shocked French society. In response, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his solidarity with “the women whose freedoms are undermined by the US Supreme Court.”
In the following months, the French government moved to introduce a bill that would include abortion rights in the constitution. The proposal stalled after lawmakers in the House and Senate disagreed over the wording.
Deputies in the National Assembly, where Macron’s party is the biggest force, voted in favor of a bill to include abortion as a “right” in the constitution, while France’s conservative-dominated Senate agreed only to include abortion as a “freedom”. In the French legal context, the government protects “right” more effectively than “liberty”.
The assembly confrontation comes amid prominent opposition to abortion in some of France’s neighbors – most notably Italy, a country with strong Roman Catholic traditions.
Italy’s family minister, Eugenia Rossella, expressed her opposition to the expanded use of mifepristone, a popular abortion pill, in a 2022 interview with Italian newspaper Quotidiano Nazionale, calling home abortion “the abolition of conscientious objection and legal obligation”.
Almost 70% of doctors in Italy refuse to perform an abortion on the grounds of “conscientious objection”, which leads to severe difficulties for many women in obtaining an abortion, As previously reported by CNN.
And in Spain, the centre-right People’s Party and far-right Vox are challenging the country’s abortion law, which has been in effect since 2010. There have been similar moves elsewhere in Europe, with Poland Hungary limits the possibility of abortion.
Meanwhile, Vélib, the company that operates the public bicycle system in Paris, says it is not happy to see its two-wheeled bike brought up in the debate.
He. She The poster campaign was described as uncivilized He said it “may have confused the general public”. She said she had started legal action against the anti-abortion group.
“It is shocking that some people ignore all advertising regulations,” Vélib’s president, Sylvain Raivaud, said in a statement, adding that the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
CNN has reached out to The Survivors for comment on the legal action and whether it plans to continue running similar campaigns in the future.
Raifaud also vowed to return the bikes to their original condition as quickly as possible. Vélib has not yet confirmed how many bikes were affected and when they will be recovered.