• Sat, Oct 26 - 11:30 am ET

Touching A Pregnant Belly Is Now Awesomely Illegal In Pennsylvania

shutterstock_107751713__1382794128_142.196.156.251When strangers touch your pregnant belly without your permission – it’s totally weird. Now in Pennsylvania – it’s also illegal.

“Essentially, someone had touched a pregnant woman’s belly. That’s very common that pregnant women have to go through. The only problem is when you harass, annoy, alarm in the act of touching, then it’s a violation, a harassment charge,” said attorney Phil DiLucente.

DiLucente said this particular harassment law has always been on the books.

“Simply stated, it’s always been the law. It always will be the law,”DiLucente said.

I can’t believe this has to be a law. You don’t just go around touching people you don’t know. Every one has a legal right to have their body left alone by others, don’t they?

One day during my first pregnancy, I was minding my own business, making a Kit Kat run. I walked into my corner bodega and a woman came up to me, cradled my belly and said, This is definitely a girl! You are so blessed. I remember thinking, Really? That is amazing. I went through a really uncomfortable ultrasound that required weird gels, emptying of the bladder and a paper robe. No one told me that going to the 7- Eleven and finding the woman with the least boundaries in the place would be just as effective. Thanks. I’ll remember that for number two. Also – it’s a boy.

I’m making jokes as usual, but that’s how I deal with life. I was actually really uncomfortable. I was very pregnant; one of her hands was basically right under my breast and the other was disturbingly close to my vagina. It was fucking weird. People tend to laugh these experiences off and think that they’re harmless – but they’re not. If I had some boundary or abuse issues I would have felt really violated. Not cool.
If this has to actually be a law to get strangers to stop doing it – so be it.

(photo: Yana Godenko/ Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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  • personal

    I have to admit that it never bothered me. Now checking my breasts to see if my milk had come in or something would have. :)

  • Annona

    You wouldn’t think that strangers would touch other strangers. I would certainly NEVER touch someone that I didn’t know, unless maybe they were on fire or had a giant spider on them or something. But yes, people lack boundaries. I have lots of visible tattoos, and people touch me, all the time. At the grocery store, on the street, at bars. I’m walking along, minding my own business, when out of nowhere some rando comes snatching at my arms or tugging at my clothes so they can get a better view of my skin. And if I yell out “Don’t touch me!” as is my instinct when grabbed by a stranger, somehow I’m the asshole. I can’t imagine what pregnant women go through.

    It’s a disturbing precedent that if you do certain things (get lots of tattoos, dress strangely, get pregnant) you somehow, in some people’s minds, lose sovereignty over your own body.

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    • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

      Ah that happens to me too (the tattoo thing). And yeah, then I am made to feel like the jerk and the person is all “what, I just wanted to seeeeee”. UGH.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      lol me too! I have a good few piercings, two nose hoops in each nostril, lip, tongue, multiple ears including stretched 22mm lobes as well as a neck piercing. and the amount of ignorant comments I get are unreal, ranging from “your parents must be so ashamed” to guys trying to feel me asking “where else are you pierced?”

      to which I reply ask my partner and then they have to look up at his 6 foot 6 frame and run. =P

  • Cee

    I have HUGE boundary issues. I cannot fathom a stranger making their mind up to touch a person they do not know, no matter if they’re old mother like figures.

    That being said, now I wonder if the pregnant ladies in my family were ever bothered when I patted their belly every time I hugged and kissed them hello. Those are the only instances I have touched a pregnant belly, aside from when the mothers themselves have yanked my hand and said “aaah, toouch here!.” It felt weird to pat their belly hello, but I just didn’t know what to do, you know, to acknowledge the baby/belly or not. I obvi decided with a small pat and a “hey little one” all the time, either way I would have felt like an ass.

    • Emil

      If they were ok with being hugged and/or kissed they probably didn’t mind. Strangers are different.

    • Kelby Johnson

      Family is different than strangers touching your belly.

    • Edify

      Family will probably let you know if they found it offensive, even if they just avoided you. My MIL only ever tried once. The look I gave her stopped her from ever trying again.

  • Jessie

    Oh hell no to what happened to you. I would choke someone. I have a HUUUGE “no touchie” rule about my personal space. It takes months for me to be comfortable enough with someone to allow anything beyong friendly handshakes.
    I actually have a maternity shirt in mind that I have told every member of my family that I want if I ever get pregnant. It says “Touch the belly, lose a hand.” I should start gifting it to my friends who get pregnant in the meantime.

    Good on Pennsylvania for making this law.

    • Jessie

      *beyond. Sheesh, I need to stop trying to type before I’ve had any caffiene. >_<

    • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

      Yes! Every pregnant woman should have that shirt.

  • Zorbs

    I punched the one person (a stranger) who dared touch my belly.

    • Mikster

      You are my new hero.

  • Amber Starr

    I’m in PA and, while this is great because I HATE when people touch my belly, I really don’t see myself ever actually persuing charges. Sure, if some creep came up and started rubbing me and doesn’t stop when I shriek, then I would be like “COPS! ARREST THIS FREAK!!”, but under normal circumstances, I just smile, thank them for their well-wishes and go on about my day.

    But I really do hate when people grab at my belly fat and swear that they feel the baby kick. Um, considering that you have a handful of loose skin and fat, I’m pretty sure that you can’t actually feel her move.

    • Angela

      This. If I ask someone to stop touching me in ANY way (belly rubs, hand on shoulder, hugs, etc) and they refuse then that’s super creepy and I’ll call for help. And I agree that it’s completely rude an obnoxious to touch a pregnant belly uninvited, but I also think that calling 911 and pressing charges would be a bit of an overreaction in most cases.

    • Robyn Norris Matthis

      I agree. While I’m all for someone’s personal space and all that, is there REALLY A REASON to haul your neighbor into court for rubbing/patting/touching your tummy? Sorry, I’m from the south, so maybe I just don’t get it, but down here, we don’t have a lot of real “strangers” coming up to us and “GRABBING” our bellies, and our neighbors, for the most part, are not strangers, so the idea of taking your neighbor to court is ridiculous to us.

  • Mikster

    I always hated it, but I also hate seeing a LAW made about it. I’m perfectly capable of getting people to back off if need be.

    • http://www.benwhoski.com/ Benwhoski

      It’s not really exactly a law being made specifically for pregnant women. Uninvited and unwanted touching is harassment. They’re just clarifying that the rules about uninvited touching don’t change just because the person being touched is pregnant.

  • keelhaulrose

    I have a major issue about being touched, and there were people who nearly sent me into a panic attack by touching my belly. If I get pregnant again I’m moving to PA.

  • Aimee Beff

    brb moving to Pennsylvania (at least for the next two months).

    I’ve had much less of this than I expected when I got pregnant, but I do work at a tech company with a fairly young employee base, who are not usually the sort of people to walk up and grab a stranger’s belly and coo over it. I had one encounter at a grocery store, and then there’s my mother, who doesn’t seem to think the concept of bodily autonomy applies to people she made in her tummy.

  • meteor_echo

    GOOD. Very good. I like this law.
    I have a lot of issues with being touched/grabbed without my consent, and, if someone grabs me, my first reaction is to elbow them in the solar plexus. I’m pretty sure it’s even more infuriating for pregnant women – because hey, a woman’s body is obviously ~public property~, and even more so if she’s pregnant.

  • Kelby Johnson

    I worked as a server when I was pregnant with my first baby and let me tell you. I worked at Bob Evans and it seemed like every other table someone was rubbing my belly or praying for me. It wasn’t as bad with my 2nd because I was behind a counter but there were still some instances of it.

    I usually just smiled and thanked them for their well wishes and walked away.

  • That_Darn_Kat

    I won’t even touch my best friends pregnant belly without asking permission first, and then I touch near the belly button. The only time I’ve strayed from that area was earlier on in her pregnancy, she thought she felt the baby’s heart beat, and wanted me to check (it’s her first pregnancy) and that put my hand waaaay low. But if was with her permission. I didn’t care if my friends and family touched my belly, but I didn’t want strangers touching me.

  • Edify

    My rule is if you wouldn’t touch my tummy under normal circumstances, you are not to touch it when I’m pregnant. So that means pretty much only my husband and medical people were allowed. Crazy that it should be a law, it should just be common courtesy.

  • http://anniedeezy.tumblr.com/ Annie

    I don’t think this should be a legal issue, just a very obvious social one. Like when a non-Black person touches Black peoples’ hair and are all “tee-hee sorry I was curious omg I’m so notracist”.

    • Lawrence

      YES! I was going to say this exact thing. When I had braids, it was constant. I immediately thought of that situation when reading this.

  • Jallun-Keatres

    Thankfully no strangers yet, but a couple people at church have touched it, though it was more in passing like a pat on the shoulder would be and not trying to feel the baby so it wasn’t enough to be like GTFO MA BELLEH!! Still weird though but at least I knew the people…

  • StrangerDanger! Need an adult!

    I have a serious question: Do strangers honestly come up to pregnant women and touch their stomachs? My fiance and I are considering parenthood sometime within the next year or so, so we’re reading parenting websites to get an idea of what we’re getting ourselves into. While bad-stranger-touching isn’t going to be a deal breaker, I am very serious about my personal space and I can’t imagine a situation in which I wouldn’t freakout and yell at a weirdo who rubbed or touched me on the stomach (or anywhere else, for that matter). I can barely keep my cool when we’re in line at the market and someone is standing too close to me, so I can’t even fathom holding it together if they were touching me. Is this seriously something that happens? I need to know so I can prepare my fiance and train him to run interference so I don’t make a complete ass of myself in public.

    • Jen

      It happens to me quite a lot. Random co-workers – and I’m not talking friends – have stopped me at work for extended belly rubbing sessions. I even had a complete stranger molest me while I was trying to leave a bathroom at a restaurant. It’s so weird and uncomfortable! I have been tempted to start rubbing the people rubbing my belly and see if they get the hint!

    • EX

      It does happen, but I wouldn’t say it’s an epidemic. People’s boundaries just get all wonky when it comes to pregnancy. They ask all kinds of inappropriate questions, comment on your weight/size, give you unsolicited advice and, yes, sometimes touch you when you’d rather they’d not. I would be prepared for how you’ll handle it if it happens but I wouldn’t stress too much over it.

    • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

      For the record, I think it only happened to me once while I was pregnant.

    • Been There

      It has happened to me, but I tend to carry large handbags and would use that as a shield. Unless you work in public (clerk, wait staff, etc.), you won’t encounter this too often. Good luck!

  • FF4life

    I have never in my life been so happy to live in PA.

  • Shelly Lloyd

    At the grocery store I work at store I work at you stand on the same side of the belt as the cashier. We are different from most stores in this regards and it does confuse some shoppers at first. But it also allows the customer to have physical contact with the cashier.
    Most of the times it is just hugs from elderly customers or pats on the back or arms–but have you ever been behind some jerk throwing a temper-tantrum in a check out line?One who is yelling and screaming over 25 cent coupon that expired 2 months ago? Those are the scary ones and at my store they get to stand right next to you, the poor cashier who is just trying to follow store policy, and getting the full brunt of a grown man having a melt down over a 25 cent deal. There has been times when I have taken several steps away from such customers because I was afraid if I had stood closer they would have slapped me.
    But there is rarely a day on the register that goes by that I do not have some customer invade my personal space bubble. I’ve kind of gotten use to it now. But it is also one of the other reasons why I love it when I get to work in the bakery.

  • Muggle

    Okay, what fucking troll is downvoting people who say they don’t like being touched by strangers and being treated as if their bodies are public property every time they dare step out of the house?

    I’m sure you would be just fine with people touching YOU without your consent every time you dared show yourself in public.

    • StrangerDanger! Need an adult!

      My guess is that it is either a super-freaky perv who gets off on rubbing pregnant ladies, or else it is some nutter who thinks that “babies are gifts from god for the world to share,” regardless of their state of development. Either way, I’m thinking they aren’t trolling, but should legitimately be quarantined until such time as it can be determined that they aren’t a danger to pregnant ladies personal bubbles. They are probably the sickos who actually like going to Costco on Sunday, and can be picked out from the squirming mass of frustration and carts by being the only people with smiles on their creepy faces.

  • Robyn Norris Matthis

    I read about all this upheaval on another website. I’ve read all the comments. Most of them sound like they came from mentally ill people. “I HAVE SERIOUS PERSONAL SPACE ISSUES”. Now, I’m assuming that’s the exception and not the rule for most people. How did you crazy girls get preggers to begin with??? For God’s sake, if somebody TOUCHES your precious tummy, SCREAM!!!! After that, take your crazy as a rat’s butt ass HOME where you belong and STAY there until that baby is BORN!!! My LORD! Ya’ll act as though you’re the only woman EVER to have a baby in the history of the world, and that YOUR tummy is the ONE that EVERYBODY wants to touch. Chill out!!!

    • Jenni

      Why is it mentally ill to not want to be intimately touched by someone you don’t have an intimate relationship with? We expect our intimate partners, our doctors, and the like to touch us, but not curious or enamored people who want to satisfy their own whims. Come on. Think about it. If I think your arms are muscular and reach out and grab a bicep, would you be ok with that? Your reasoning makes no sense and as a female, you should be a little more understanding of the vulnerability of being a woman, especially in such a state as pregnancy. It’s not like it’s easy for a very pregnant woman to run away or fight. She stands to lose a lot. And no, I’ve never been pregnant.

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  • Kriegar

    It does not “have to be a law”, it already covered ‘under’ a law.

    Why would people think that it is ‘normal’ behavior to just stroll around touching someone so intimately? Very strange people, I must say! And that is not even to mention “Mama Bear Syndrome”, mind you.

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  • Jenni

    We teach kids about boundaries and saying no to anyone trying to touch them without their consent, but heaven forbid the humans who carry those same kids expect the same courtesy.

  • Janok Place

    I’m 5 months pregnant and you are all depressing me. I remember all the belly touching way too well. I’m a tiny person and they seem to confuse me with a knocked up Barbie play thing. I get so many comments about my appearance as a mother or expectant mother because of my size and the age I look.

    When DD was just two weeks old I left her with dad and went to the store. I forgot something and the girl from behind the counter came out to give me something I had forgotten. She looked in the car and saw the car seat “I’m sorry, do you have a child?”… I replied that I did, and she gasped “You look way too young, you shouldn’t have kids”

    This girl appeared to be my age, early to mid twenties and by the time I got into my car I was ready to run her over. I’ve also had strangers pet my belly and tell me I must not be feeding my baby properly. News flash ass hole, I run a farm and raise my own food get the fuck out of my face and go have a Big Mac.

    Just like that, the hormonal rage returns :)

  • gothicgaelicgirl

    try having a woman from a shop lean over the counter, lift your shirt and rub your belly, all the while saying she’s convinced it’s a girl….when you’re not even pregnant… i politely asked her first to stop touching me, i was not pregnant, she laughed then said ah don’t be codding me, sure I can feel it, you even have the belly!

    well.

    bitch-switch flipped.
    i told her to either take her hands off me or I would break them off. then she had the nerve to get offended at me.

    I reported her to her manager and now she refuses to serve me.

    maybe I was extreme but as someone recovering from an eating disorder, ANY comment about weight can be sensitive, ESPECIALLY when I’ve already asked someone to take their hands off me!

    did I over-react?

  • BubbleyToes

    I do not like to be touched. I don’t even wear any clothing that hugs my body. I just hate it. I do like to be held by my husband, but that’s the only person. If I am ever pregnant and someone touches me, I will freak out and slap that person. It will not go well lol.

  • coptic777

    Why I am thinking this “law” will only apply to men? So you want to be able to CRIMINALLY CHARGE someone (men) for touching your pregnant belly? Keep it up ladies this is why outside of sex more and more of us men are avoiding anything to do with you.