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 arm.
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?