Emboldened by Donald Trump's win, Republican lawmakers nationwide rush to pass repressive legislation

Bills criminalizing protests as "economic terrorism," banning headscarves, and abortions have cropped up nationwide

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published November 18, 2016 5:29PM (EST)

 (Getty/Chip Somodevilla/Photo montage by Salon)
(Getty/Chip Somodevilla/Photo montage by Salon)

In the week following Donald Trump's stunning presidential victory, Republicans elected to lower-level offices across the nation have pushed forward some radically right-wing legislation, including a total ban on abortions and the sanctioning of protest as "economic terrorism."

On Wednesday, little more than a week after Trump's narrowly won the commonwealth, anti-abortion Republicans in Pennsylvania's Senate tried to ram a repressive bill which had stalled out after being passed by the Republican-controlled House earlier this year.

H.B. 1948, which passed the Pennsylvania House by a 140-58 vote, would scale back the availability of legal abortions from six months after fertilization to five, mandate spousal approval and require that a second physician be present in case the fetus survives the abortion. A violation would be a third-degree felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine. In addition to restricting the time limit, the bill would officially rename second-trimester abortions “dismemberment abortion.”

Using the guise of a budget bill, Republicans tried to push through the bill to little avail Wednesday.

Gov. Tom Wolf has threatened to veto it if it reaches his desk, but Pennsylvania Republicans have enough votes to override a veto

“This legislation would be a step backwards for women and for Pennsylvania,” Wolf said in a statement after its House passage. “If it passes the House, I urge the Senate to reject it. If this legislation reaches my desk, I will veto it. This is a bad bill for Pennsylvania and we cannot afford to allow it to go forward.”

Meanwhile, in Indiana, Republicans emboldened by the unpopular Governor's ascent to the vice presidency have introduced a total ban on abortion.

Republican State Rep. Curt Nisly announced on Wednesday that he was introducing what is known as the "Protection at Conception" bill, which will officially find its way to the state's General Assembly in January. As the Indy Star notes, all forms of abortion would be made illegal, and "prosecutors could file charges against those who participate in the procedure."

While such a ban would be found unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade, Nisly says he anticipates President-Elect Donald Trump to make sweeping changes to the Supreme Court with his appointment of pro-life Justices that will allow his bill to stand.

“My position is that the Supreme Court is wrong with Roe v. Wade,” Nisly said, “and they don’t have jurisdiction in this manner. This is the state of Indiana asserting the powers that are given to them, specifically in the 9th and 10th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.”

The IndyStar reports that, "Conservative activists emboldened by President-elect Donald Trump's decisive victory in Indiana are already rallying behind the measure."

Republicans have also seized on the reaction to Trump's election to push their regressive laws.

Washington state Republican Senator Doug Ericksen announced Wednesday plans to introduce a bill that would allow authorities to charge protesters with committing "economic terrorism," following a round of rowdy anti-Trump protests in Seattle and Portland, Oregon. The Republican state lawmaker's legislation would lead to stricter penalties for those involved with or participating in illegal protests. If approved, it would allow felony prosecution of those who break the law in an attempt to coerce private citizens or the government by obstructing economic activity. Such a proposal would mean violators could face five years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both.

“We are not just going after the people who commit these acts of terrorism,” Ericksen, an outspoken supporter of Trump, said in a press release Wednesday. “We are going after the people who fund them. Wealthy donors should not feel safe in disrupting middle-class jobs.”

Accomplices could be required to pay restitution up to three times the amount of the damage caused, if the bill passes.

In North Carolina, statewide Republicans up for re-election may have narrowly won with the help of Trump last week, but after voters also tipped the state Supreme Court to a Democratic majority, the Republican-dominated North Carolina General Assembly may propose a bill creating two additional seats in order to maintain domination.

According to a report by North Carolina Policy Watch, Former North Carolina Justice Bob Orr, a Republican, and Common Cause North Carolina Executive Director Bob Phillips have both heard rumblings by members of the General Assembly of an emergency special session called to address Hurricane Matthew during which the two new seats would be established. It is a maneuver allowed by the North Carolina Constitution.

But Phillips argues that the move would be “a statement that says elections don’t really matter because the election last week did change the balance of our state supreme court, and this would flip it in another way back to the majority party.”

Republican Governor Pat McCrory, whose election against Democratic challenger Rory Cooper has still not been called yet, would simply have to sign a Republican-passed bill allowing for two new justices to the bench and then select his appointments to serve unelected until 2018. As North Carolina Policy Watch warns, if Cooper maintains his lead, McCrory’s term expires at the end of the year, creating a deadline for the court-packing move.

Still, there is recent Republican precedent for court-packing across the country. In May, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey appointed two extra justices to the Arizona Supreme Court, expanding its size from five to seven. The same month, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal supported a bill to increase the number of justices on the Georgia Supreme Court from seven to nine.

And speaking of Georgia. A Republican lawmaker in the state was forced to rescind his controversial proposal to include traditional headscarves worn by some Muslim women to an existing law banning hooded KKK robes.

State Rep. Jason Spencer, on his official Facebook page, cited "the visceral reaction" created by the proposed legislation as his reason for withdrawing it.

"While this bill does not contain language that specifically targets any group, I am mindful of the perception that it has created. My objective was to address radical elements that could pose a threat to public safety," wrote Spencer.

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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