Body-modification bills advanced by House panel

Posted: March 21, 2013 at 11:15 a.m.
Updated: March 21, 2013 at 11:43 a.m.

A House panel has advanced a pair of body modification bills after adding amendments, including one that reversed a previous portion of the bill that would have banned scarification and dermal implants.

The House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee unanimously passed the bills by voice votes Thursday morning.

Senate Bill 387 had called for a ban on dermal implants and scarification, drawing concern from the body modification industry. But a representative from the group said the change resolved those concerns.

Dermal implants are decorative items inserted under the skin while scarification involves scratching, etching or cutting designs to produce a scar for ornamentation or decoration.

Misty Forsberg, a body piercer who spoke to the committee on behalf of the Arkansas Body Modification Association, said the two sides sat down Wednesday night and reached the compromise. She said there was a "huge outpouring of people opposing the bill" before, but that allowing and regulating scarification makes more sense than prohibiting it.

"That's fantastic that they saw that," Forsberg said after the votes.

The bill would still give the State Board of Health the ability to regulate scarification and it also would ban subdermal implants, which a representative from the Health Department said poses infection risks and "blurs the line" between body art and plastic surgery.

The bills are sponsored by Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, and Rep. Deborah Ferguson, D-West Memphis.

"Everyone has a different idea of beauty," Ferguson told the committee, "but we should try to ensure it's done safely and within reasonable limits."

Senate Bill 388, also passed Thursday by the committee, sets in place regulations for the body art industry, including establishing age limits for getting different forms of body art, putting in place licensing rules and setting other safety guidelines.

The bills affect anyone performing body art other than doctors.

Earlier versions of both bills passed the Senate earlier this month.