Pennsylvania renews a warning to make it illegal to touch a pregnant woman's belly without her consent. WPXI's Katherine Amenta reports.
A Pennsylvania man was charged with harassment for allegedly hugging a pregnant woman and rubbing her stomach without her consent in what may be the first case of its kind, according to police and a legal expert.
Richard J. Beishline, 57, went to his pregnant neighbor's trailer at about 5 p.m. on Oct. 20 in Cumberland County, according to Trooper Robert Hicks, a public information officer for the Pennsylvania State Police.
While there, Beishline hugged the woman and touched her stomach against her wishes at which point she pushed him away, Hicks said. Beishline returned to his trailer, and the pregnant woman called police.
Beishline was later charged with harassment in connection with the incident, Hicks said.
In Pennsylvania, a person can be charged with harassment for an action they take that has an intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person.
But rarely if ever has the law been applied to unwanted belly-touching and other physical contact aimed at pregnant women.
"It’s extremely rare and uncommon," said Pittsburgh attorney Phil DiLucente. "I have never heard or saw this ever being found."
"This might be the first of its kind," he added.
Hicks also said he had never heard of the law applied in this way, but added that any unwanted physical contact can be considered harassment under state law.
The charge is what is known as a summary offense in Pennsylvania, not a misdemeanor or a felony, and is typically disposed of with fines, DiLucente said.
After a person is charged, a citation is issued where the individual can plead guilty and pay a fine or plead not guilty and scheduled a hearing in district court.
A magistrate in Cumberland County filed the harassment charge against Beishline, but he has not yet received his formal citation or responded to the charge, according to Hicks.