After Uproar, Donald Trump Dials Back Remark About 'Punishment' for Women Who Have Abortions

Well, that was fast.

GOP front-runner Donald Trump said Wednesday there should be "some form" of punishment for women who have abortions.

Less than three hours later, he backed down, saying that if abortion becomes illegal, "the doctor or any other person" performing the surgery should be held legally responsible, "not the woman."

Read: Former Cruz Staffer Slams Rumors They Had An Affair, Calls Trump A 'Cheater'

The about-face came after widespread outrage followed his initial remarks, delivered in a heated exchange with MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews during a Wisconsin town hall gathering.

Trump, who previously supported abortion rights, now supports making the procedure illegal. Pressed by Matthews on how such a ban would be enforced, Trump seemed to dodge the question.

"I am pro-life," the caustic billionaire replied.

"You're about to be chief executive of the United States. Do you believe in punishment, yes or no?" Matthews asked.

After a few more exchanges, Trump said, "The answer is there has to be some form of punishment.”

"For the woman?" said Matthews.

"Yes, there has to be some form," Trump answered. 

Read: Thousands of Anti-Trump Protesters Hit New York City and Phoenix Streets

And then the Internet lit up with bipartisan criticism.


Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump's Republican rival for the nomination, said, "Once again, Donald Trump has demonstrated that he hasn’t seriously thought through the issues, and he’ll say anything just to get attention."

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton posted on Twitter, "Horrific and telling."

Ohio Gov. John Kasich predicted that Trump would recant without saying the word recant.

“Probably Donald Trump will figure out a way to say he didn’t say it, or he was misquoted, or whatever,” Kasich told MSNBC.

He was right.

Trump's campaign issued two clarifications Wednesday afternoon. The second, more lengthy statement read:

"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 in the revised statement. "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."

But even anti-abortion groups took umbrage with Trump's original remarks.

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

"Being pro-life means wanting what is best for the mother and the baby,” she said. “No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion.”

Watch: Trump Defends Campaign Manager: She Was Grabbing Me, Should I Press Charges?"

Related Coverage