The Women’s Law Project, along with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, supports House Bill 1947 moving out of the Senate Judiciary Committee without any further amendments to the bill.
House Bill 1947 concerns statutes of limitations on sex abuse, meaning the designated period of time a survivor is legally able to pursue criminal or legal action.
This bill accomplishes important objectives to achieve justice for child abuse victims. It:
- Eliminates the statutes of limitation for prosecution of criminal child sexual abuse prospectively;
- Extends the age by which a victim of child sexual abuse may pursue a civil lawsuit to age 50; and
- Extends the time to file civil claims to age 50 to any survivor who is under age 50, even to those for whom the statute of limitation has expired.
We understand there is a debate about the constitutionality of the extension of the statute of limitation to civil child abuse claims. The judiciary committee has heard from a number of interest groups and experts who gave differing views on this question. The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference & insurance lobby argue that retroactivity is unconstitutional.
However, constitutional law experts, including distinguished Professors Marci Hamilton and Kermit Roosevelt, provide well-reasoned legal analysis to support the constitutionality of retroactive application of the civil statute of limitation. While the Women’s Law Project agrees that retroactivity is constitutional, ultimately it is for the courts to decide.
We therefore support HB 1947 moving out of committee without any further amendments stripping the bill of retroactivity.
The Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.