Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pictures, Piercings, & Politics

A few days ago, I saw something on Facebook that started the ol' blood boiling. Arkansas is most of the way to passing legislation to limit body art based on what is socially acceptable!

Grrr! Rawr! Grah! And other Angrish phrases, and so on, and cursing, etc.

Ready the mind bullets! (Source.)

And then research ensued. Followed by facepalms. See, the average article on this looks like the following:

Bill to Ban Certain Tattoos, Body Piercings Passes Senate
The Arkansas Senate passed a bill to ban tattoos, piercings and other similar body modifications which it characterizes as “non-traditional,” recently.

Senator Missy Irvin of Mountain View, Arkansas sponsored the bill entitled ”An Act To Limit Body Art Procedures”. She says that body modifications should be limited to “traditional” tattoos and piercings. Her proposal was to essentially ban scarification procedures and dermal implants, as well as certain tattoos which remain yet to be defined as by the vague language of the bill she sponsored.

And that's one of the more temperate articles that actually mentions the fact that the bill specifically bans dermal implants. Most of them run straight to, "They're taking our freedoms, man!" I have yet to see a single article on SB 387 that runs under an accurate headline, like "certain body modifications banned" or "surgical body modification by non-medical professionals banned."

Not only that, but most throw in a reference to "vague language" and ominous portents that they could gasp BAN TATTOOS AND BODY PIERCINGS!

I give you SB 387. Seriously, go take a look, it's only three pages. I'll wait. 


Confused? So was I, initially. Because, my dears, aside from the eminently clear language banning subdermal implants, those are definitions. Scarification isn't banned, it's defined as distinct from tattoos and branding. Tattoos, body piercings, etc. are all left perfectly alone.

In fact, SB 387 was a springboard, a proposal to change the specific wording of the Arkansas Health Code regarding body artists so that they could have a clear set of definitions while passing SB 388. You don't have to go read that one, it's fifteen pages. A hedgehog will slap a hypocrite if you do, however. 

Slapmaster Spiky, standing by. (Photo by TBurgey)

But it's essentially a clarification and simplification of existing health laws regarding body art. The new stuff it does is to make the laws simpler and more transparent, as well as setting some minimum age requirements. 

On a side note, I did find a decent article on 388, that ran under an accurate headline and reported clearly. Here you go.

So what does 388 do for public health and safety? Well, as a for instance, it specifically makes it illegal to brand anyone under 18, without exception. It makes it illegal to tattoo or pierce anyone under 16 without parental consent. It clarifies the penalties for those, and changes some of the licensing requirements. To be clear, it changes them in favor of the artists in some cases, not against them wholesale.

How would you like to have to go through college again every time you change states? That would suck. So, instead of forcing artists through a re-certification course, SB 388 sets up a one time $500 license transfer fee. You show proof of licensure and operation in another state, pay your money, and you're done. Now that seems a bit high to me, but honestly? It's better than going back through training, or taking a state certification course.

I mean, you still have to take a blood borne pathogens course. However, it used to look like this:

(b)(1)(A) The department shall promulgate rules to establish standards for the blood-borne pathogens course required under this section.

(B) The course shall require a minimum of two (2) hours of direct instruction.
(2) The course may be taught by providers approved by the department, including without limitation:
(A) The American Red Cross;
(B) Any nationally recognized body art organization;
(C) Any institution of higher learning; and
(D) Any other individual or group approved by the department.
 Now? You take it through OSHA. And you can take it online. That's it, that's the whole thing, nice and simple.

So, let's get to the one thing that is actually banned. Dermal implants.

Now, I'm all for self-expression through body modification. I've had my ears pierced, my nips pierced, I have three tattoos, one constantly visible, a brand, and four scarifications. I have more tattoos planned, and am currently searching for jewelry I'm not allergic to so I can get permanent piercings. But the thing is, I totally understand where Sen. Irvin is coming from on this one.

Subdermals are installed surgically. By non-surgeons. Without anesthetic.

Is it possible for someone to get good at this and do it safely? Ayup. Obviously, because there are people that do it. But is it possible for a state to allow licensing and training for this, safely, effectively, and within national medical practice laws? Not without a hell of a lot of changes to what constitutes a surgical procedure. Which would cause all sorts of problems.

At the core, subdermals are being banned because there's no way to enact legislation that allows them to be performed by body modification artists without mucking about in some fairly serious pieces of legislation that work quite well and should not be fucked with in ways that muddy them up.

And that makes sense.

Health codes are there to protect people. And the sucky thing about subdermals is that to pass legislation allowing them would be to basically say, "No-one may practice plastic surgery without extensive training and licensing...unless it's a body artist, who, you know, is going to...uhhhh...implant that's ok, of expression?"

Now for everyone that just screamed at me, I'm not saying subdermals aren't cool, or that we shouldn't explore ways to make them safely legal.

What I am saying is that there's a thing called legal precedent that no-one wants to play with. If a body artist can implant a small piece of silicone under your skin, or several pieces, or a plate, or a ball...well, at some point, you're looking at a procedure that is indistinguishable from plastic surgery. Nose jobs, boob jobs, butt implants, certain kinds of reparative surgery...those involve implanting a measure of silicone under the skin, for cosmetic or medical purposes.

And if someone sticks a boob implant in a someone illegally, but it's legal for a body artist to stick a silicone ball in someone, eventually some fucker somewhere might get the bright idea to use that as a defense for practicing medicine without a friggin' license. Is that certain to happen? No. But do lawmakers want to open that door? Probably not.

All of this leads here: fear tactics suck no matter who's using them. The laws, as they read, are a set of definitions with a single bit of CYA inserted and an overhaul of a section of the health code for clarification and further regulation to protect kids and artists.

And honestly, if you have to obfuscate the issue to create a fight against a law while claiming to protect freedom of expression, you've sort of missed the point.