Politics & Policy

Holing Court

A piercing issue.

I’ve decided to support President Bush’s nomination of John Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court because he’s a proven consensus builder: Both Ann Coulter and People For the American Way agree that he’s the wrong guy for the job. Still, part of me wishes that Alberto Gonzalez had been the president’s choice this time around because a Gonzalez nomination might have sparked a long-overdue national conversation on one of our most emotional, divisive and yes, most pressing social issues: parental-notification laws.

As a member of the Texas supreme court, Gonzalez ruled to weaken a state law requiring that at least one parent of a minor seeking an abortion be notified first (with exceptions made for abused or endangered minors). By contrast, Gonzalez’s former colleague on the Texas bench Priscilla Owen ruled in favor of strengthening that same law. In presenting their case the pro-parental-notification side in Texas famously argued that since an underaged girl needed a parent’s permission to get her ears pierced, shouldn’t she also need it to get an abortion (even though the Texas law only required notification, not permission)? All of which is, of course, sheer madness. Not the part about your underage daughter having abortions while you think she’s at the skating rink with her friends; the part about a teenaged girl needing her parent’s permission to get her ears pierced. As…if! Like, when did that become the, like, law or whatever?

As anyone with even a casual understanding of constitutional law knows, the individual’s right to privacy comprises the very ideological framework upon which all other human rights, uh…sit. Fundamental rights such as life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and even unrestricted sodomy fall by the wayside in importance as compared to one’s basic, inviolable right to privacy. In fact, privacy is such an intrinsic, inalienable human right that the authors of the Constitution made no mention of it whatsoever. That’s right–throughout several separate drafts and who knows how many unpaid rewrites (apparently some of the signers had lots of “notes”), the word “privacy” never actually appears in the text of our Constitution–it was just that important to them as they crafted that famously living, breathing document we still sort of live by to this very day.

Accordingly, not least among the private acts every free citizen is allowed to indulge in, publicly and at will, is the fundamental human right to pierce various bodily extremities including our ears. Which makes the very notion of a parental-notification law for ear piercing, even as applied only to minors, unconstitutional. But that’s not all.

Whether you’re for or against ear-piercing rights (and those in the latter camp prefer to be called “pro-lobe”), most would agree that any procedure which takes place in a strip-mall jewelry shop is a private matter between a girl, her piercist (or piercings provider), and, like, seven or eight of the girl’s totally, like, best friends. Laws requiring a girl to get her parents’ permission before having her ears pierced are a clear and obvious attempt at chipping away at piercing rights we fought so long to win. The same can be said of a parent’s casual “We’ll talk about it tomorrow” response to a girl’s request for pierced ears, as if a 13-year-old girl were still a child and some stupid 24-hour “cooling off” period were necessary.

Be you pro-ring or pro-lobe, the fact is that pierced ears are so 1990s now–pierced eyebrows, lips, and tongues are where the action is these days. So let’s put aside our differences and work towards the common goal of making ear piercing safe, legal, and rare (except in cases where a girl’s social standing is in grave danger). In the meantime, let’s agree to keep the government out of our bedrooms, our churches, and our strip-mall pierced-earring shops just like the Framers intended.

Let’s also hope that our new Justice Roberts is on the right side of the whole parental-notification issue because I don’t think any of us want to return to the bad old days when a girl who wanted to look all that but couldn’t get permission had to resort to dangerous, back-alley ear piercings. Not to be blunt, but we as a society need that like we need another hole in the head. Oh, yeah, and one more thing: If you’re personally opposed to ear piercing rights for moral or religious reasons, I have some advice for you: Don’t get your ears pierced.

Ned Rice is a staff writer on the new and improved CBS talk show The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Rice is also an NRO contributor.

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