“Keep your hands to yourself!”
We are taught from a young age that we shall abide by this golden rule. “Don’t hit your brother; ask first before you pet the dog!” But how about… “May I touch your stomach?”
It seems rather intuitive that you don’t just walk up to strangers and touch them. (If you do, I suggest that you stop. Immediately.) So why would anyone think that it’s okay to touch a pregnant woman’s stomach?
Never mind the invasive line of questioning that generally grows along with the child in utero, the uninvited rubbing, patting, and just plain awkward contact with a pregnant woman’s belly is an all-too often occurring invasion of personal space. One apparently so pervasive, that in Pennsylvania it requires a statute to control.
The idea of keeping your hands to yourself isn’t novel. The common law of battery punishes one for committing “an unlawful touching of a person by another.” More specifically, in Pennsylvania, this idea of punishing one for an unconsented to physical touching has always been on the books. If you touch someone and harass, annoy, or alarm him or her in the process, you may be found guilty of harassment. It therefore makes sense that the touching of a pregnant woman’s belly without her permission may constitute harassment as well.
The new ruling came about after a Cumberland County, Pa. man was charged with harassment for touching a pregnant woman’s belly without her permission. The woman won the case, and set precedent for any other unwelcome belly touchers in the future.