The Arkansas Senate passed a bill to ban tattoos, piercings and other similar body modifications which it characterizes as “non-traditional”.

The bill was sponsored by Senator Missy Irvin of Mountain View, Arkansas and was named “An Act To Limit Body Art Procedures”.

Irvin says that body modifications should be limited to “traditional” tattoos and piercings.

The bill was far from the first and it certainly will not be the last. Similar bills have tried and succeeded in the past.

In 1961, New York City declared it “unlawful for any person to tattoo a human being,” a law that remained on the books for almost four decades. The tattoo trade was not re-legalized in New York City until 1997!

State appellate Judge Aron Steuer, declared that “what is harmful or injurious is a matter for the Legislature rather than the courts.” The judge added that, “the decoration, so-called, of the human body by tattoo designs is, in our culture, a barbaric survival, often associated with a morbid or abnormal personality.”

Fast forward to 2013. Irvin’s proposal was to essentially ban scarification procedures and dermal implants, as well as certain tattoos which remained more or less undefined by the vague language of the bill she sponsored.

Almost unbelievably, this bill passed by a 26-4 vote. Following this, the bill was sent to the House, where it took on even more vague language. See the link above for the bill as it was eventually “compromised” on in the House.

The scarification ban from the Senate version was removed, while considerable ambiguous language remained. The House “compromise” bans dermal implants unless performed by a doctor. This essentially, and in practice, outlaws the body modification. As well, the bill’s vague, undefined language – even in the edited, House version – while editing out some of the original language on tattoos, fails to define a number of important issues raised by the Senate version, including what they mean by “cosmetic” tattoos as opposed to “non-cosmetic” tattoos.