Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers

Pregnant Pennsylvania: Touching Pregnant Bellies May be a Crime

There are lots of difficult changes that come with being pregnant. Your weight balloons, your balance is thrown off, you’re inundated with questions and opinions, and you find yourself plagued by mystery pains, mood swings, and inexplicable food cravings. On top of all that, the last thing you want to deal with is the obligatory stranger (or ten) who feels compelled to touch your baby bump. But should it be illegal? Following a recent sexual harassment suit in central PA, opinions and rumors about legislature — and what even constitutes harassment — began to fly.

Catalyst to the Controversy

Since humans have been walking upright, countless expectant mothers have had to endure the phenomenon of strangers throwing their normal reservations about personal space out the window and opting to touch pregnant bellies. But on October 20th, one woman in Cumberland decided enough was enough.

When Richard Beishline paid a late-afternoon visit to his expectant neighbor, he did not expect the social call to end in a phone call to the police, or in harassment charges being filed — but that’s precisely what happened. And in its wake, a media storm of speculation has been gestating, so to speak.

Harassment Reminder Warns Against Touching Pregnant Strangers

The incident sparked rumors that touching a pregnant woman’s belly had been altogether outlawed in Pennsylvania. Thanks to the prevalence of social media and the somewhat offbeat nature of the issue, the rumor took off at full speed. But while its contents aren’t altogether accurate, they do contain some grains of truth.

It isn’t the actual touching that’s illegal — it’s when, in the course of touching, the touch-er causes undue emotional distress. As Pittsburgh attorney Phil DiLucente puts it, “Essentially, someone had touched a pregnant woman’s belly. That’s very common that pregnant women have to go through that. The only problem is when you harass, annoy, alarm in the act of touching, then it’s a violation, a harassment charge.” Following the Beishline case, an old warning against the act has been reissued in Pennsylvania.

Women Weigh In

What do women think of the legal hullabaloo? It’s certainly not unanimous — opinions vary from the supportive to the dismissive.

Andrea Kristina: “There is such a thing as ‘personal space’ and you wouldn’t just walk up and touch every round thing that strikes your fancy otherwise, so why do that to a pregnant woman? It’s creepy and rude.”

Dani Mathes: “Annoying? Sure. Illegal? Heck no. We can’t have laws for everything. We already complain about having so many laws for minor crap.”

Jordan Elizabeth: “I fail to see what about a woman being pregnant suddenly makes her body in any way the property of society. It’s inappropriate touching and that is harassment under most penal codes.”

CNN correspondent Kelly Wallace: “A bother? Yes. A pet peeve? Sure. But an illegal offense? I am wondering if we’re taking things a bit far.”

Every pregnant woman is different — every human being is different — so it’s hardly a surprise that some are gung-ho while others are rolling their eyes. As for which camp is correct, well, that’s in the realm of opinion.

Pregnant or not, harassment is a very real crime. If you have been charged with harassment, you need Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates. Contact us today.