What is it about a perfectly pregnant tummy that leads total strangers to reach out and rub it? Some expectant mothers don’t mind the touchy-feely intimacy when it’s the hand of a friend or family member doing the rubbing but what about strangers? Should they ask permission first? Should strangers be granted permission to touch? Should there be a law against unsolicited belly rubs?

Actually, there are laws against unwanted touching of another but these laws aren’t limited to being touched while pregnant. They’re assault and battery charges and they apply to everyone every day.

Any gesture one person makes toward another that provokes fear, causes harm, or threatens in any way is an act of assault. When physical contact is part of the picture, the crime becomes assault and battery. Either way, intent must also be part of the action for the interchange to be called a crime. Details vary according to state law but unwanted, uninvited touching is unwelcome everywhere.

Accidentally brushing against a stranger in a crowded store, on the sidewalk, or the like is not a crime because there is no intent to harm involved. There is intent when a person reaches out a hand to deliberately touch a woman’s pregnant belly. Some strangers ask permission first and some mothers allow it; others cringe at the request and refuse.

Should there be a law making it unlawful to touch the abdomen of an obviously expectant mother? Some women say yes, others say no. Some women consider it just another one of the many joys of impending motherhood but others describe it as an invasion of personal space.

There are very clearly understood laws against the unwanted touching of other parts of a woman’s body. Her breasts are pregnant too, right? The almost-universal understanding that some parts are never OK to touch leaves some people wondering why the rules change for this one part of the body at this one phase of life.

The question recently made the news when a Pennsylvania woman filed harassment charges against a man who touched her tummy without permission. She told him to stop it but he did it again. That’s when she decided he’d gone too far.

Women are sounding off all over the internet on the issue. It’s a hot topic in face-to-face conversation, too. There are no laws in the US that makes it a specific crime to touch a pregnant woman’s belly but the Pennsylvania woman’s story does provide the opportunity to raise awareness that such touching might not be wanted and it could be considered a crime.

Since women’s opinions of the temptation run the full spectrum from “yes, it’s part of the fun” to filing legal charges, it might be a good time to adopt a look-but-don’t-touch policy for people who aren’t intimately acquainted with the expectant mother.

Source: Wallace, Kelly. "Hands Off! Rubbing Pregnant Bellies Might Be Illegal." CNN. 6 Nov 2013. Web. Retrieved 12 Nov 2013.

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