Harrisburg, Pa. − March 22, 2021 − Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa responded to the statement from Senate Republicans indicating that an emergency constitutional amendment to provide a window for justice for survivors of sexual abuse will not be voted in the Senate chamber.
“We strongly disagree with the Senate Republicans conclusion that securing justice for the survivors of sexual abuse is not an emergency, and I am disappointed to see that they are willing to delay justice over a clerical mistake.
If the Republican concern is constitutionality of an emergency amendment, we should proceed with a bill that creates a window to justice statutorily – rather than through the constitutional amendment process. Senate Democrats have introduced such a bill for two consecutive sessions; this session the bill is introduced as Senate Bill 407.
Further, we are able to add language to that legislation that would expedite any legal challenge immediately to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court – still guaranteeing a resolution for survivors much faster than beginning again with the two-plus year process for a constitutional amendment.
If Republicans are unwilling to vote on an emergency constitutional amendment, we have no choice but to enact a statutory two-year window with expedited jurisdiction to the PA Supreme Court.
It was due to no fault of survivors that the constitutional amendment was not properly advertised, and they should not be made to suffer further because of administrative error.
The window to justice constitutional amendment passed with majority support in two consecutive sessions. It has been vetted. We have approved it. We must act to get this on the ballot in May – as it was intended, or immediately signed into law. There’s no more time to lose.
An analysis of nearly 200 independent studies involving more than 230,000 adult participants finds that having been sexually assaulted is associated with significantly increased risk of anxiety, depression, suicidality, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder.
Securing justice for survivors is an emergency; they cannot wait any longer.”