PA Senate approves bill with new definitions, descriptions of child sexual abuse material

12 June 2024- The state Senate today approved two bills introduced by Sen. Judy Ward (R-30) and Sen. Maria Collett (D-12) that would strengthen Pennsylvania laws related to child pornography and child sexual abuse.

“The words we use in state laws are important, especially when they are the foundation for a criminal case against a child sexual predator,” Ward said. “The internet has created a whole new front in the protection of our children.  These changes will better enable law enforcement to keep our children safe and apprehend those individuals who present a danger to them.”

Senate Bill 186 and Senate Bill 187 would implement a recommendation from a 2022 report issued by the Child Pornography Task Force of the Joint State Government Commission and Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

The task force recommended replacing the phrase “child pornography” with “child sexual abuse material” in Pennsylvania law. The phrase “child pornography” fails to adequately capture what is contained in the images or film, whereas “child sexual abuse material” specifically identifies the child as a victim of sexual abuse that has been captured in still photographs or videos.

“It’s crucial that we update the language of our laws to call these illegal materials what they are: child abuse,” Collett said. “These bills reflect the recommendations of the Child Pornography Task Force, on which both Senator Ward and I served, and aligns the Commonwealth’s statutes with federal law and regulations. I’m grateful for our colleagues’ overwhelming support and look forward to seeing this urgent legislation signed into law.”

Senate Bill 186 would apply the change to Title 18, commonly referred to as the crimes code. Senate Bill 187 would apply the change to the Child Internet Protection Act.

The Joint State Government Commission Task Force on Child Pornography was created through Act 53 of 2021.

Senate Bill 186 and Senate Bill 187 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.