Indiana legislator puts ink behind eyeball tattoo ban

Matt Dugan gets a tattoo at Mastercraft Tattoo. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — After learning about the health risks of eyeball tattoos, one Indiana state senator is telling Hoosiers: “Don’t do it!”

State Sen. John Ruckelshaus, a Republican from Indianapolis, wants to keep eyeball tattoos out of Indiana.

“The ophthalmologists are terribly concerned that any time you deal or inject any foreign object or any needle into the eyeball, you run a very serious risk of infection,” Ruckleshaus said.

Eyeball tattooing dangers can include decreased vision, blindness or losing an eye, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

At Masterwork Tattoo downtown, hand-drawn works of art cover the walls — and the people.

“Every tattoo I have has a meaning. There’s a story behind it,” said Matt Dugan, who was getting a tattoo on his arm.

Masterwork Tattoo owner and tattoo artist Jacob Bryan says stories like those are part of why he enjoys his work..

“You make things that make people’s lives better,” Bryan explained.

When asked about eyeball tattooing, Bryan said he has not seen any in person, but he has heard about it.

“They’re basically ink injections into the whites of the eyeballs. They aren’t done with the standard tattooing process. So, a tattoo machine isn’t used, as far as I know,” Bryan said.

Bryan said he doesn’t know of anyone in Indiana who has had it done: “It’s not a part of what I would do or be interested in or what we would offer here.”

The proposal Ruckleshaus introduced would ban eyeball tattoo procedures in Indiana, making it a civic penalty.

Ruckelshaus said under his bill, a person who tattoos somebody’s eyeballs could face a fine of up to $10,000.

“It would be up to the attorney general to police this,” Ruckelshaus explained.

The idea had people inside Masterwork Tattoo talking.

“I think that passing a law that would more or less put tattoo artists or body modification specialists at risk for doing their own jobs is a bit on the extreme side. Especially for something that’s not growing in Indiana,” Bryan said.

“I just don’t believe in trying to pass laws that tell people what they can and can’t do. Especially from a tattoo perspective,” said Dugan.

A similar bill passed in Oklahoma, and Ruckelshaus said he hopes not to face an uphill battle in committee, but said he could face resistance since there haven’t been cases reported yet in Indiana.