In the Indiana Statehouse, a near-unknown practice was stopped before it could start. Scleral tattooing, a body modification pioneered in Australia and made infamous by an accident in Canada, has been banned in the Hoosier state. The practice itself hasn’t been recorded within Indiana, and the ban had no civilian opponents- none came to the statehouse to defend “eyeball tattoos.” Only two representatives, both from Indianapolis, opposed the bill. Sen. Greg Taylor (D) criticized it as a “bill in search of an issue,” while Sen. Michael Young (R), the only other dissenter, considered the practice essentially equal to other forms of body art.
While a ban on eye tattoos is technically encroaching on freedom of expression, the legislation is intended to prevent disfigurement and handicap. Blurry vision and even full blindness has been recorded as a result of the tattoos, and even with normal vision, pain can become chronic. While some legislators considered the measure to be a solid preemptive measure, the decision was, to others, overly conservative, looking for an issue; while it could hardly be expected to reach epidemic proportions, it can certainly be seen as a public health issue that has been gracefully prevented.
Scleral tattooing involves the injection of ink into the human eyeball. Recipients have the whites of their eyes dyed to some other solid color. The procedure entails piercing the eyeball itself, and injecting a special type of non-toxic ink beneath the surface of the eye. A healing period is necessary. Any major mistake is not a matter of needing a “cover up”- it’s a matter of losing eyesight.
The inventor of scleral tattooing, Luna Cobra, is a licensed eye surgeon. In fact, the Indiana ban only prevents unlicensed artists from providing tattoos. For people with eye injuries uninterested in changing color, tattooing can be the only way to cover up bruising; white ink is injected into the eye to return it to a semi-normal appearance. While this type of surgery doesn’t necessarily save lives, it’s considered just as important as skin grafts or vocal cord repair- a surgery meant to return the patient to normalcy.