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Body modification law demeans individual liberty

Submitted by Sarah DeClerk on April 4, 2013 – 11:55 amOne Comment

Our legislators are not just trying to control women’s bodies; now they’re after everyone.

In March, the Arkansas Legislature passed Senate Bill 387, which tightens restrictions on body modification, particularly subdermal implants and scarification. Perhaps we should be grateful that the bill, championed by Sen. Missy Irvin (R), only regulates these procedures; originally it called for a ban.

The bill claims to be motivated by safety but seems bent on controlling what people do to their bodies. There’s something to be said for safe body art; people should know it is being done by a qualified professional in a sterile environment. This could be accomplished with inspections, licensing and education; we don’t need the government to baby-sit us with bans and restrictions.

The bill seems motivated instead by prejudice against artists, young people, and people who simply don’t want to look like everyone else.

The bill sets age limits that targets teenagers, who cannot even vote for the decisions concerning them. Apparently, our legislators don’t think young people are capable of deciding what to do with their bodies.

The bill does not apply to “vanilla” procedures like ear piercing and permanent cosmetics. Ear rings, everlasting eyeliner and breast implants are fine, but decorative scars or horns would be too weird for our legislators.

But what politicians think is weird does not really matter, or at least it’s not supposed to. Politicians should not have the right to decide what people do to their skin. In fact, we have the right to do whatever we want with it. Look it up; free expression is guaranteed by the First Amendment. A star-shaped implant or a Molly Hatchet tattoo is symbolic speech. It’s how you convey your message to the world.

And really, if we don’t have our bodies, what do we have?

The bill also requires body artists to have five years of training before they can be licensed with the Department of Health. Even with a license, they are forbidden from inserting implants into their clients.

These restrictions rob artists and Arkansans of livelihood. They discourage the growth of the body modification industry, which could be a thriving part of Arkansas’ economy. The bill will only scare away potential investors and entrepreneurs, depriving us of state income.

This over-regulation runs contrary to the Republicans’ favorite pet – free trade, or unregulated commerce. What an odd move for a Republican-controlled legislature.

The bottom line here is hypocrisy. How can Republicans support a small government that routinely tramples on individual liberty?

Small government must only apply to big business. It’s wrong to tax major corporations, but okay to keep independent artists from working. It’s wrong to outlaw submachine guns, but okay to ban decorative subdermal implants, which don’t hurt anybody unless it’s the people who sign up for them, and they’re paying for it.

Legislators are trying to make people look like they do, which is, frankly, pretty boring. This petty move degrades the individual liberty America was built from, and sends a message that this is the land of the free (as long as you look like me).


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