PA Legislature Approves Bill to Protect Sexually Exploited Children, Human Trafficking Victims

Harrisburg, Pa. — Pennsylvania Senators Maria Collett (D-12), Cris Dush (R-25), and Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-28) celebrated the final passage of their legislation to ensure children who are victims of human trafficking can seek justice and access essential support services.

Under current state law, any minor who is exploited for commercial sex must identify their third-party perpetrator to be considered a victim of human trafficking. The senators’ bipartisan package of legislation, once signed by the Governor, would change that.

“Even though this landmark bipartisan legislation is finally on the way to the Governor’s desk for signature, as lawmakers, we all need to recognize that abolishing Human Trafficking is not a one and done thing,” Dush emphasized. “I was happy to work with Senators Collett and Phillips-Hill on this initiative, but we need to remain focused and continue to work to combat this worldwide crime against humanity. We will continue our work by getting SB45 across the finish line to ensure that third party control is not a requirement in any section of our law.”

Sen. Dush’s Senate Bill 44 amends Titles 18 and 23 of the Pennsylvania criminal code to ensure third-party control is never a consideration for access to victim services. The bill passed the PA Senate on Wednesday night and now heads to the Governor’s Office for signature.

“These bills remove barriers to early interventions like counseling, legal assistance, housing supports, childcare and more to ensure victims of human trafficking have the tools they need to heal while the wheels of justice turn,” Collett said. “I’m heartened by our Senate colleagues’ unanimous support for SB44, and I look forward to seeing our partners in the House complete these efforts by sending SB45 to the Governor’s desk.”

Sponsored by Sen. Collett, Senate Bill 45 eliminates the third-party control requirement to access victim services under the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline Notification Act (Act 197 of 2012). The bill awaits a final vote in the Pennsylvania House.

This package of bills also expands the authority already granted to officers appearing undercover as minors in Title 18, allowing undercover law enforcement to pose as a third party selling a minor into sexual exploitation.

“The legislature continues to make strides and passing this bipartisan legislation builds on the foundation we – as Republicans and Democrats – have built to fight human trafficking in every corner of the state,” Phillips-Hill said. “With this bill, we ensure that criminals are prosecuted and victims are able to get the critical support they need.”

In 2021 alone, 315 human trafficking victims – including 42 minors – were identified in Pennsylvania through the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Pennsylvania had the eighth highest number of signals sent to the hotline in the nation that year.

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