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Regulating body art

Written by: Isaiah Smart


Body piercings and tattoos have had a long-standing relationship with humans throughout history. In some cultures, body art represents history, lineage or religion, but in other cultures a tattoo may simply represent a drunken night.


In March, Arkansas Senate Bill 387 was passed. The bill redefined “body art” and included scarification—the etching, scratching or cutting of skin to produce a design.
The bill isn’t exactly clear on what is limited or banned, but it is clearly stated that subdermal operations are prohibited but can be performed by licensed physicians. This shouldn’t be much of a problem as Joe Phillips, a member of the Arkansas Body Modification Association, stated that he doesn’t know of anyone doing such procedures.


Misty Forsberg, a piercing and scarification artist in Arkansas, worked with state legislators to update the bill. She was reported as satisfied with the results despite a “bumpy ride” at first.


What if this moves along to Georgia? A council in Washington, D.C., wants to establish a 24-hour waiting period to prevent impulse acts of getting a tattoo or piercing. “We’re making sure when that decision is made that you’re in the right frame of mind.” Yvette M. Alexander, a council member, said.


As stated, the bill is ambiguous to what is limited or banned, but what isn’t? This ambiguity could give the government some type of grey area to reign in. Could the prohibition of subdermal body art be the beginning of widespread regulation on self-expression? Is this an infringement on your first amendment rights or just a way to keep things safe for minors and people acting off impulse?

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