Monday, October 28, 2013

And pregnant women across the land rejoiced

You know how random strangers tend to act like pregnant women belong to them? Everyone thinks they get to ask questions, offer advice, make overly personal comments, touch bellies. (I'm trying really hard to keep our contraception/abortion battles out of it, but it sorta seems natural that since we let random strangers have so much say in those things, it's no surprise that the busy-body-ness continues with the pregnancy. State legislators, lobbyists, church groups, and others feel they have the right to control some decisions regarding conception and pregnancy, so why shouldn't they think they get to control the whole dang 9 months?)

One of the frustrations so many of my friends have expressed is this thing they have experienced with people they barely know: the idea that said people are welcome, entitled even, to touch the pregnant woman. Never mind that touching women without their consent is technically a crime. In my state, it's misdemeanor battery to touch someone without her (or his, but we're talking about pregnant people here, so her) consent if that touching is done in a rude manner. I argue it is inherently rude to presume you're allowed to touch a woman just because she's pregnant. I suspect a lot of pregnant women throughout the country wouldn't mind yelling at those people. And I wouldn't be surprised to learn many of them are secretly cheering at this story.

A man in Pennsylvania was charged with harassment for hugging a pregnant woman and rubbing her stomach. It's not even a misdemeanor. It's like a ticket. Pay a fine and go home. Not some big life-altering event. But maybe this guy, and other intrusive people who see this story, will think twice before touching another pregnant woman without permission.

It's not cute or sweet. Not everyone's pregnancy belongs to the entire world, or even to all the people that particular pregnant woman knows. A woman doesn't lose all right to privacy when she becomes pregnant. She doesn't become just some soulless vessel whose precious cargo can be claimed by the entire human race. Women, even pregnant woman, are autonomous beings who actually do get to decide how they want to interact with others. It may be a small thing, but it's nice to see one prosecutor in Pennsylvania respecting that.

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