Hastings Journal on Gender and the Law


Inna Volkova


Legislation in certain states has placed limitations on children's ability to acquire piercings or tattoos until the age of 18-irrespective of parental consent. This note argues against this type of legislation and instead advocates for parental consent to be the authority in this process. Taking into account the modern trend of body piercings and tattoos, the path of educating minors about possible health risks would accomplish the government's objective of decreasing piercings and tattoos amongst youth, without banning their rights to self expression. It is important to acknowledge the exception carved out for soft ear lobe piercings which is based both on medical risks and historical roots. This note draws an analogy between ear lobe piercings and other piercings and tattoos, and argues for uniform treatment. Further, the note addresses the infringement of minor's freedom to self expression protected by the Constitution. Laws banning minors from piercings and tattoos are inconsistent with other freedoms minor receive prior to the age of majority, and with the ability of parents to consent to a wide range of medical treatments and other potentially dangerous activities. For all of these reasons, laws prohibiting minors from piercing and tattooing their bodies, even with parental consent, have no place in modem society and should be abandoned.