On Wednesday, GOP front-runner Donald Trump united both sides of the abortion debate for a while when he told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that women who seek illegal abortions need to be punished. He later backed off that comment, but the statement has a number of people wondering where, exactly, he stands on the issue.
Trump assured Matthews that he opposes abortion, and was asked how a theoretical ban on the practice would work. Matthews pressed Trump on the matter and asked if there should be punishment for an illegal abortion.
“There has to be some form of punishment,” Trump said. “For the woman?” Matthews asked in a follow-up. “Yeah,” Trump said, adding that the nature of the punishment would “have to be determined.”
The statement caused an instant outcry of condemnation from his main rival, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. In a statement, he castigated Trump as someone who speaks without thinking.
“Once again Donald Trump has demonstrated that he hasn’t seriously thought through the issues, and he’ll say anything just to get attention,” Cruz said. “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,” he added. Democratic Party front-runner Hillary Clinton also slammed Trump, calling his remark “horrific and telling.”
In a press release sent to byteclay.com, Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of UltraViolet Action, a group that describes itself as “an online community of over 700,000 women and men who take collective action to expose and fight sexism in the public sector, private sector and the media,” slammed Trump’s suggestion that women who seek illegal abortions be punished. Thomas minced no words when she said that Trump’s “aggressive and malicious comments about American women will truly never end.”
“Only this time, Trump is not just making another one of his slanderous remarks, he’s talking about real policy that would have absolutely disastrous impacts on American women exercising their constitutionally protected right,” she added. “And these attacks are just the natural extension of the misogynistic hate-fuelled campaign that Donald Trump has been running. According to Trump, women who receive a constitutionally protected medical procedure should be punished, while his campaign manager, who assaulted a female reporter, should get a free pass. This is shameful and un-American.” Trump also found himself under fire on social media.
“Trump praised @PPact. Now he says women who have abortions should be punished. He’s tone deaf, nonsensical, and incapable of leading,” one person said on Twitter. “He makes this stuff up as he goes. He’ll say the opposite by dinner,” another person said. And it appears that Trump lived up to that prediction, issuing a statement by the end of the day.
“If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman,” Trump said. “The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb. My position has not changed — like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.”
Nevertheless, the comments have some scratching their heads. Bloomberg said that Helen Patenaude, an Oconto retiree, still supports Trump, but was “confused” by his statement and “didn’t really understand” what he meant.