Pa. House overhauls limits on filing claims of childhood sex abuse

    The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has approved a major change to the state's statute of limitations in cases of sexual abuse of children. (AP file photo)

    The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has approved a major change to the state's statute of limitations in cases of sexual abuse of children. (AP file photo)

    A major change to the state’s statute of limitations in cases of sexual abuse of children is headed to Pennsylvania’s Senate, after receiving final approval Tuesday from House lawmakers.

    By a vote of 180-15, the House passed a plan to erase the time limit on criminal cases of child sex abuse going forward and let victims bring civil suits until their 50th birthday, an extension of 20 years. The measure would also allow victims to sue institutions that harbored their abusers.

    At one point during debate, members suggested delaying their vote to review constitutional concerns. The motion was vehemently rejected by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, who has made his own story of being sexually abused as a child by a priest central to his support of statute of limitations changes.

    “These victims have been through enough. They have been abused, they have been lied to, their stories have been covered up!” said Rozzi, shouting into the microphone on the House floor. “And there has been institutional and public corruption that has denied them justice!”

    The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the Insurance Federation have opposed the plan. Supporters received a jolt of urgency last month, with the release of a statewide grand jury report detailing a cover-up of child sex abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy at the Altoona-Johnstown diocese.

    The statute of limitations overhaul is now before the Senate, where members could advance it upon their return to session in May.

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