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Iowa State Law On Piercing Minors

The State of Iowa has no regulation on the act or profession of Body Piercing. However, there are a great number of both moral, ethical and liability questions when piercing minors. I recently got a call from a parent asking about the law regarding this and our policies on piercing minors and she stated that she could find nothing on line about this issue, thus this installment of my Piercing Blog.

Iowa State Law

At the time of the written of this blog there is no legislation or bills regarding Body Piercings. So if anyone claims to be licensed by the State of Iowa to do Body Piercing, they are lying. There has also been some confusion in the past about professional organizations like the Association of Professional Piercers or APP being a licensing board. They are not. What they are is a national professional organization that has a low level of standards that their members must agree to uphold. They do not do on site inspections or claim to even endorse the skill of their members.

The act of Tattooing is regulated by the State of Iowa. Tattoo artist are prohibited to tattoo minors unless they emancipated by marriage. So, unless a minor has been married, there is no way they can legally be tattooed in the State of Iowa.

In the past, a number of them have gone to committee and then died a slow death. They came across a number of issues and the biggest was how to prove and verify that the legal guardian of the minor child was in fact the one giving consent.  Other issues were whether or not Ear Piercings should not be regulated or not and like with anything involving governmental oversight, how to fund the already over stretch Iowa Department of Health to handle the licensing and inspections.

Personally when asked I've stressed that unless the law is effective in making sure that piercers are well trained, include all piercings including ear piercing and the piercing of minors, I can not support it. I have always felt that it would just become another business tax and the hassle of proving that I'm practicing my professional the same way I have for the last 23 years. 

The Age of Consent

The fact is that a number of studios in Des Moines and Iowa in general will piercing minors over the age of 16 without parental consent. Though oddly enough they require it for any child under 16. When I've pressed a few of them they have stated that the Age of Consent in Iowa is 16.  Now why a law that clear defines the age in which a person can consent to a sexual act would have anything to do getting a piercing is beyond me.

The reality is that a minor person, defined in Iowa as anyone under the age of 18, unless they have been emancipated by the courts, is not held responsible for their actions. They are prohibited to enter into contractual agrees and thus can not legally consent to get a piercing. Also and here is where the slippery slope begins, since they can not be held liable to enter into a contract, they also can be in signing a release or waiver to way the piercer's liability in performing the piercing or be held accountable to the responsibility of caring for the piercing or taking on the risks of getting pierced. So, if something goes wrong during or after the piercing or simply the parent is upset about not giving consent to have the piercing done at all, the piercer and studio is liable.

It is my experience with dealing with infections and other problems on minors when the piercing was done on a minor without parental consent, they try to hide the piercing from the parents. When or if the piercing develops issues, they continue to hide the piercing until the problem becomes dangerous. 

Ethics and Morals

As a Professional Piercer you are endlessly struggling between your ethics and doing the best you can and making a profit. I will be the first to admit that piercing minors without consent would greatly increase my income. There isn't a day that goes by that I do not turn clients away because they are under the age of 18. That is the only real motivation that I have found to piercing minors without consent.

I have always believed that even without the issue of liability, it was unethical to pierce minors without consent. I could go into the development of the minor's ability to make decisions and how they often have not developed enough to handle the responsibility of heal a piercing. However, it comes down to having the child's parents involved is a much better option. Ethically, like it or not, they have a responsibility to unsure the health and safety of their child. That ethically involves the decision in permanently altering their body.

Yes, I know a lot of people see piercings as being temporary. Just simply remove the jewelry and the piercing is gone. That isn't the case, the piercing will create scar tissue that the person will have for the rest of their life. So, if it's a facial person, there will be scars that will be visible that could effect earning potential and social situation. This is especially true of stretching piercings beyond 4g where costly surgery maybe required to close the piercing. As any parent can tell you a teenager doesn't have a plan for next week, let alone consider how their actions may effect them in 20 years. 

One question I always bring up when I'm turning a minor away is, if they are willing to risk a law suit, what else are they willing to risk. As I stated above this is a income base choice. Is it far fetched to believe that they would also use cost cutting measures that involve sterilization, jewelry quality, training, etc.. to increase profit?

Kids Will Find A Way

This is something I try to always bring up with parents when they are prohibiting their minor child from getting a piercing.  I could list endless horror stories of self piercings, shared needles, unethical piercers, septic infection, etc... It comes down to where there is a will there is a way and the best way is to have a parent involved in the decision to get the piercing, researching the piercing, selecting a piercing, and guiding the minor through the healing period. This is a chance to guide your child through the decision process and learn a life long skill.