Roach wants body-piercing consent law
The Associated Press
OLYMPIA — Rebellious teens may soon have another reason to curse state Sen. Pam Roach. The legislator responsible for forbidding juvenile tattoos in Washington state wants to force teens to have parental permission before they pierce a body part.
Most professional body piercers require parent approval. But a few take advantage of laws in Washington and more than 12 other states that let kids surprise Mom with a new tongue stud.
"We have teens coming in here who have issues, their piercings are all infected," said Jacob Willardsen, the main piercer at House of Tattoo in Tacoma. "They're getting it done at another shop or doing it themselves — either way, it's happening."
Roach, R-Sumner, wants to make sure it doesn't.
Almost a decade ago, she helped pass a law that makes it a misdemeanor to tattoo minors younger than 18. Under the proposed piercing bill, it would also be a misdemeanor to pierce people younger than 18 unless their parents give permission and are present when the piercing occurs. The latter, the senator said, almost guarantees that teens won't be getting pierced in, well, inappropriate places.
"Moms just don't want to see that," Roach said.
The bill doesn't apply to ears.
Several states regulate body piercing minors, with most requiring some parental consent, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The penalties vary by state.
People who illegally pierce youth in Louisiana could face hundreds of dollars in fines and up to a year in prison. In Delaware, rogue piercers can be charged with a misdemeanor and be held liable for damages.
The bill's primary purpose in Washington, Roach said, is to protect the young from piercing perils such as infections and diseases that can be passed from less than sanitary tools.
Beyond health, the senator added, the law will prevent teens from a familiar pain to any man bearing a tattoo of his ex-girlfriend's name — regret.
"We want to protect young people from decisions that may cause them disfigurement or consternation later in life," Roach said.
Teenagers may encounter difficulties in finding employers who like eyebrow rings, Roach said. And a piercing can leave scars once the jewelry is removed.
At Metro, a tattoo and body-piercing shop in Olympia, Ashley Fagernes wasn't worried about jobs or scars. She recently celebrated her 18th birthday with a lower-lip ring. "I've always wanted something pierced, but my mom was against it," she said.
Fagernes has no problem with the bill, adding that she didn't try to get something pierced until she moved out of her parents' house.
"She would have either kicked me out or made me take it out," Fagernes said.
Most professional body piercers support the bill.
Randolph Slaughter, the piercer at Metro, requires minors to come in with their parents. The teenagers and parents have to show their own IDs, plus a document proving their relationship.
New piercings require scrupulous care to prevent infections, and Slaughter makes sure teenagers and their parents are ready to handle the task.
"I'll even ask students if they have good grades," Slaughter said. "You have be responsible enough to take care of it."
At Fusion Tattoo in Enumclaw, Erik Warren said he usually shoos away teenagers asking about piercings and prices.
"If the parents won't let them, we're not going to encourage it," he said. "Lines of angry parents aren't great publicity."
Kurtis Kirk, the owner of Seattle's Golden Body Rings, known for piercing minors, sees things differently. Such a law would hurt his business more than that of other establishments, Kirk said.
"I really don't think we need a moral piercing police," Kirk said. "A young woman can get an abortion in this state without her parents holding her hand, like they want people to do for piercing."
A hearing hasn't been scheduled for the bill, which is in the Senate Judiciary Committee. But Roach said the bill seems to be gathering bipartisan support.
Shelley Morin, 19, understands why.
The Olympia resident had her navel pierced at age 14, with her mom's permission. She had also wanted a tattoo of a butterfly, but her mother put her foot down.
"I'm so glad she did," Morin said. "It would have looked stupid."
Editor's note: Associated Press writer Kelly Kearsley has five piercings, all in appropriate places.
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company