Missy Irvin pushes nanny state attack on tattoo parlors

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Missy Irvin image
  • DAVID RAMSEY
  • Irvin daydreams about tongue splitting during testimony from industry expert Forsberg

Missy Irvin image
  • DAVID RAMSEY
  • Irvin daydreams about tongue splitting during testimony from industry expert Forsberg

Sen. Missy Irvin wants to protect you from the scary world of body art.

The Senate Public Health committee will need to consider the new Medicaid deal but they spent some time this morning to pass Sen. Irvin's Act to Limit Body Art Procedures, which bans scarification and dermal implants. (Scarification is a non-ink skin marking that forms scars for decorative purposes, while dermal implants refers to placing ornamental objects beneath the skin.)

Irvin and a Health Department official testified that they wanted to reduce infections but they mostly employed an "ew gross" strategy of talking about various procedures. They particularly harped on a "tongue-splitting" that was performed in Little Rock, even though that would not be impacted one way or the other by the legislation. Irvin, an ostensibly small-government conservative who loves to use the legislature to boss citizens around about what they do with their bodies, was in fine form. At one point she compared scarification to female genital mutilation in Africa.

Misty Forsberg, a licensed tattoo and body piercing artist from Fort Smith, testified convincingly that the definitions in the bill were contradictory and vague. Forsberg said the bill failed to address the more intensive forms of implants the health department intended to target and as written the bill was so broad that it would ban navel piercings. As for scarification, Forsberg said that it had been a worldwide industry for ten years and that it should be regulated, not banned, which would only send it to an unregulated black market. "If it’s passed you’ll see professionals cease to do it," she said. "Professionals like myself won’t break the law to do it. It will be left to untrained individuals underground...a ban on it will only increase the danger of having untrained individuals perform it on the public and leaving that public with no safe way to pursue this art."

Forsberg told me after the meeting that she and other tattoo and piercing artists were consulted as the bill was being written for their expertise but were ignored.

Sen. David Burnett used the question time to announce that tongue-splitting was "the grossest thing I've ever heard of." The bill passed by voice vote and is on to the Senate.

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