A couple from Georgia have been charged with illegally tattooing six of their seven
children. Using a makeshift needle fashioned from a guitar string,
prosecutors allege the couple gave five of the kids, aged 10 to 17,
cross-shaped tattoos, while the sixth got "mom and dad" on his
A Georgia couple face cruelty charges for tattooing six of their
kids with this makeshift needle.
They've been charged with, among other things, second-degree
child cruelty, which in Georgia means causing "excessive physical
or mental pain."
After being released on bail, the mother, Patty Jo Marsh, told
the Atlanta newspaper: "I'm their mother. Shouldn't I be able to
decide if they get one?"
Which, in spite of the oddities spewing out every end of this
story, raises an excellent point. Parents make decisions all the
time that others might find questionable without being charged with
child cruelty -- home-schooling and deciding not to vaccinate are
two that come to mind.
Setting aside for the moment that tattoos are usually something
kids do explicitly without parental consent (there's a
story here involving my sophomore year of college and my mother,
who happens to be a Jewish dermatologist), this asks an interesting
question about the bounds of parental discretion.
Consider a less serious example: A lot of parents pierce their
baby's ears? So why the double standard? Is it just that enough
people who make laws agree that babies look cuter with earrings? Or
that pierced ears are a more accepted fashion statement that
tattoos? At issue in the Georgia case seems to be a lack of
consent, which seems fishy when you consider the case of infant
ear-piercing and a 17-year-old getting a tattoo that, according to
his parents, he asked for.
Weird, definitely, but I'm not sure it's criminal.
What do you think? Is this prosecutorial overreaching? Or are
the charges justified? Where would you draw the line?
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