Throughout my three pregnancies, I couldn’t tell you how many times strangers would come up to me and rub my pregnant belly. I was always uncomfortable and sometimes slightly annoyed by the practice, but I never thought it should be illegal. A man in Pennsylvania was recently charged with harassment after repeatedly touching a pregnant woman’s stomach without permission.
This isn’t a new law on the books, but an old one that’s being applied in a new way. According to a Pennsylvania-based attorney, “Any time you harass, annoy, alarm another and there’s touching involved without consent, someone can be charged with harassment.” While it may seem a bit extreme, unwanted touching of a pregnant belly definitely falls under that description.
On one hand (haha), I completely understand why this woman filed harassment charges. When you’re pregnant, you feel very vulnerable and the instinct to protect your baby is sometimes overwhelming. I’ve always responded positively to strangers who approached me to talk about pregnancy, and if someone directly asked me if they could touch my stomach I usually allowed it. It was a different story when a person would touch my stomach without permission. I often physically turned my body away from their prying hands. It wouldn’t be okay for a stranger to touch any other part of my body without asking, so why should my pregnant belly be any different?
On the other hand, I do think criminal charges might be taking things a bit too far. While it’s true that some people just cannot accept no for an answer, I think it’s extreme to suddenly make belly-touching illegal as it’s a practice that’s been going on for decades.
In the end, I hope that people understand that just because a woman is pregnant it doesn’t give them free-reign to get up in her personal space and touch her. Pregnancy is amazing, but you should always, always, ALWAYS ask permission before you touch ANYONE you don’t know, especially if she’s expecting.
What do you think?