Daily Dispatches

Are tattoos more risky than abortions?


Washington, D.C., is pushing to enact strict rules for “body art” parlors. The city’s health department claims customers face serious health risks and potential regrets that they must be protected from, according to The Washington Post. Yet these same officials reject regulation of the city’s large abortion industry. 

Last week, the city released a draft of regulations for the tattoo industry, which includes requirements for artists to obtain Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training, be up-to-date on their shots, and obtain a criminal background check. No such rule exists for abortion provider employees.

Tattoo parlors also must post warning signs detailing body art’s potential health risks, such as contracting hemophilia, skin diseases, hepatitis, and HIV. But abortion centers do not have to post potential risks for abortion, which include uterine damage, mental health consequences, infertility, and the death of the baby.

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In addition, each body art shop must include a sign prohibiting minors from obtaining any procedure besides ear piercing, which requires parental consent. However, minors wanting an abortion are welcome at any D.C. abortion center: There is no minimum age requirement for the procedure, and they don’t even need parental permission.

“According to the people running this town, tattoos and piercings are dangerous and might fill young girls with regret, but there’s no way that they’d ever regret destroying their offspring,” said Drew Belsky, communications director for Live Action, a non-profit working to end abortion. “If you take a piercing out, the hole will close up. You can remove a tattoo, albeit painfully. But you cannot bring a baby back. So the [city’s] priorities are utterly upside down.”

Tattoo shop owners are upset about the proposed changes, especially the requirement for a 24-hour waiting period from the time customers first request the body art or piercing until they can have it done. With as much as half of their income coming from walk-ins, artists worry the new rules will kill their business. But officials insist the public’s safety is more important than the tattoo parlors’ financial gain.

“We’re making sure when that decision is made that you’re in the right frame of mind, and you don’t wake up in the morning … saying, ‘Oh my God, what happened?’” Najma Roberts, a health department spokeswoman, told The Washington Post.

How many women would have been spared a regret-filled morning-after if Washington had a 24-hour waiting period for abortions?

Sarah Padbury
Sarah Padbury

Sarah is a writer, editor, and adoption advocate. She is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute's mid-career course. Sarah and her husband live with their six teenagers in Castle Rock, Colo.


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