Trump Says 'There Has to Be Some Form of Punishment' for Women Who Have Illegal Abortions, Then Walks Comment Back

A political firestorm erupted Wednesday afternoon when Donald Trump said during a pre-taped MSNBC town hall in Wisconsin that he would favor "some form of punishment" for American women who have abortions if the procedure were to become illegal. During the mid-day taping on MSNBCHardball host Chris Matthews battered Trump with a series of pointed questions on abortion that sort of knocked the GOP frontrunner off-balance.

Via the Daily Mail:

'Should abortion be punished? This is not something you can dodge,' Matthews asked.

'If you say "Abortion is a crime" or "abortion is murder," you have to deal with it under the law. Should abortion be punished?'

Trump replied that 'people in certain parts of the Republican Party, and conservative Republicans, would say, "Yes, they should be punished".'

Asked for his personal view, Trump called abortion 'a very serious problem, and it's a problem we have to decide on. It's very hard.'

'But you’re for banning it,' Matthews interjected.

Trump engaged him: 'Are you going to say – well wait, are you going to say put them in jail? Is that the punishment you’re talking about?'

'No, I’m asking you because you say you want to ban it. What does that mean?' Matthews pressed.

Trump ultimately said 'there has to be some form of punishment,' for women who have abortions if the practice were to be outlawed.

At least a couple of pro-life groups, worried that Trump's stated position could damage the pro-life cause, immediately put out statements disavowing it.

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, said Trump’s comments were “completely out of touch with the pro-life movement and even more with women who have chosen such a sad thing as abortion.”

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Susan B. Anthony List, another group that opposes abortion, also responded with a statement from its president, Marjorie Dannenfelser.

“As a convert to the pro-life movement, Mr. Trump sees the reality of the horror of abortion,” Dannenfelser said. “But let us be clear: punishment is solely for the abortionist who profits off of the destruction of one life and the grave wounding of another.”

GOP rival Ted Cruz also issued a statement in response to  Trump’s comments on MSNBC:

Once again Donald Trump has demonstrated that he hasn’t seriously thought through the issues, and he’ll say anything just to get attention. On the important issue of the sanctity of life, what’s far too often neglected is that being pro-life is not simply about the unborn child; it’s also about the mother — and creating a culture that respects her and embraces life. Of course we shouldn’t be talking about punishing women; we should affirm their dignity and the incredible gift they have to bring life into the world.

Trump walked back his comments later in the day, saying in an email to the Daily Mail that the abortion issue "is unclear and should be put back into the states for determination."

"Like Ronald Reagan, I am pro- life with exceptions, which I have outlined numerous times," Trump said.

Two hours later, he told a crowd of about 1,000 that 'nobody respects women like Donald Trump. Nobody will be better for women.'