Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump asserted during an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that there must be “some form of punishment” for those who obtain abortion care, should the procedure be banned in the United States.
“Should the woman be punished for having an abortion?” Chris Matthews asked Trump during the network’s pre-taped Wednesday town hall event. “This is not something you can dodge. If you say abortion is a crime or abortion is murder, then you have to deal with it under the law.”
“Well, people in certain parts of the Republican Party and conservative Republicans, would say, ‘Yes, it should be punished,’” Trump replied. “I would say that it’s a very serious problem and it’s a problem that we have to decide on.”
“But you’re for banning [abortion],” Matthews said in a heated back and forth. “How do you ban abortion? How do you actually do it?”
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“Well, you go back to a position like they had where people will perhaps go to illegal places, but you have to ban it,” Trump said. The GOP presidential candidate went on, referring to unsafe procedures many who needed abortions have been forced to have when abortion care was inaccessible.
“Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no?” Matthews asked again.
“There has to be some form of punishment,” Trump responded, refusing to say what that punishment would be.
Trump, in a statement released Wednesday, claimed that though his “position has not changed” on the matter, doctors providing abortion care “would be held legally responsible, not the woman.”
Presidential candidates roundly condemned the Republican frontrunner’s position after a clip of Trump’s comments was released ahead of the town hall.
Chad Sweet, a campaign spokesperson for Sen. Ted. Cruz (R-TX), said on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper that Cruz “focuses on punishing those who perform abortions, not women who get them.”
“Look, you know—I think probably Donald Trump will figure out a way to say that he didn’t say it or he was misquoted or whatever, but I don’t think so,” Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) said of Trump’s comments, according to the New York Times. “I don’t think that’s an appropriate response and it’s a difficult enough situation then to try to punish somebody.”
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, blasted Trump’s remarks in a statement. “Donald Trump hit a new low today in not only towing the anti-choice line that abortion should be outlawed but in proposing that women who seek abortion care should be punished,” Hogue said. “Not only is this an unhinged position far from where the American people are, but it is sure to endanger women were he to become president.”
“Everywhere abortion is illegal, the number of abortions don’t go down,” Hogue continued. “But the number of injuries and deaths go up. It’s appalling that in a week where Trump has blamed the victim of violence at the hands of his campaign manager, he would offer to be the leader to inflict more violence on women whether through forcing us back into the back alley or punishing us for making our own health-care decisions.”
Trump’s commitment to punishing those who receive abortion care comes amid controversy over the GOP candidate’s treatment of women.
Though he claims to have “great respect for women,” many criticize Trump’s “sexist” rhetoric, which includes having called Fox News host Megyn Kelly a “bimbo” as well as a litany of other comments based on women’s appearances. The presidential candidate came under fire for using “victim blaming” to defend his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, after battery charges were brought against him for allegedly grabbing and bruising reporter Michelle Fields.
Trump has spoken at length during the election about being anti-choice and his intention to defund Planned Parenthood, despite his admission that the health-care organization does “very good work.” His past support for abortion rights has led some, including Cruz, to question his position on the matter.