Image: Body piercing in Washington State
Ted S. Warren  /  AP
Randolph Slaughter at Metro Body Piercing and Tatoo in Olympia, Wash., pierces the lower lip, of 18-year-old Ashley Fagernes Wednesday.
updated 2/5/2005 10:21:27 AM ET 2005-02-05T15:21:27

Rebellious teenagers may soon have another reason to curse the establishment now that a lawmaker wants to add Washington to the list of states that require parental permission before minors can pierce a body part.

Some professional piercers have taken advantage of loose regulations in more than a dozen states that let youngsters come home with a tongue stud, navel ring or pierced eyebrow without approval from Mom or Dad.

“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.”

State Sen. Pam Roach wants to make sure it doesn’t happen anymore.

Stopping inappropriate piercings
A proposed law would make it a misdemeanor to pierce minors unless their parents give permission and are present when the piercing occurs. The latter, Roach said, almost guarantees that teens won’t be getting pierced in inappropriate places.

“Moms just don’t want to see that,” Roach said.

The bill doesn’t apply to ears.

Several states already regulate body piercing with most requiring some type of parental consent for minors, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The penalties vary by state.

People who illegally pierce minors 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 held liable for damages.

Health reasons
The bill’s primary purpose in Washington, Roach said, is to protect the young from infections and diseases from unsanitary piercing tools.

Beyond health, Roach added, the law will prevent young people from a pain familiar 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.

She added that teenagers may encounter difficulties finding employers who embrace that eyebrow ring, and piercings 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 by adding a ring to her lower lip.

“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 pierced until she moved out of her parents’ house.

“She would have either kicked me out or made me take it out,” Fagernes said.

Professional support
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 for the responsibility.

“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 piercing minors is frowned upon by most of his colleagues. He usually shoos away teenagers asking about piercings.

“If the parents won’t let them, we’re not going to encourage it,” he said. “Lines of angry parents aren’t great publicity.”

'Piercing police'
But Kurtis Kirk, the owner of Seattle’s Golden Body Rings, which is known for piercing minors, said the law would hurt his business more than other establishments.

“I really don’t think we need a moral piercing police,” Kirk said.

A public hearing hasn’t been scheduled for the bill, which is in the Senate judiciary committee. Roach, a Republican, said the bill seems to be gathering support from both parties.

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.”

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