Donald Trump Walks Back Statement on ‘Punishment’ for Women Who Have Abortions

Hours after an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews in which he said he thinks women who have abortions should be punished, GOP 2016 candidate Donald Trump has clarified his comments.

As NBC reports, Matthews earlier pressed Trump, who stated he is “pro-life.”

“If you say abortion is a crime or abortion is murder, you have to deal with it under the law,” Matthews said.

Trump then turned to Matthews and asked, “Are you going to say, well wait, are you going to say put them in jail? Is that the punishment you’re talking about?”

Matthews replied that that’s the question he was asking Trump. Ultimately, Trump responded that the “answer is that there has to be some form of punishment, yeah.”

Later, however, the Trump campaign released the following statement:

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. 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.

Prior to his statement walking back his comments, Trump was criticized by both pro-life and pro-abortion groups.

“Comments made by presidential candidate Donald Trump today that if abortion were outlawed there would have “to be some form of punishment” for women seeking an abortion are troubling,” said Family Research Council Action President Tony Perkins. “Trump’s suggestion that he would support punishing women seeking abortions because there are ‘conservative Republicans’ advocating such a policy shows Mr. Trump is ill informed in this vital issue.”

“While Trump has since ‘clarified’ his position on punishing women, his statements suggest he should spend more time with pro-life conservatives to gain a better appreciation of what their goals and objectives really are,” Perkins added. “The pro-life movement values both mother and child and seeks to uphold the dignity of both by seeking to protect both from the damage of abortion and the predatory abortion industry.”

Though Planned Parenthood’s media supporters often paint the pro-life community as uncaring and unsympathetic toward women who find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy, pro-life activists say their goal is to save both the life of the unborn baby and the physical and psychological life of the mother.

Rep. Diane Black – who is also a nurse – recently released a response to a column in Cosmopolitan magazine written by actress Amy Brenneman, who wrote that she has “never, not for one moment, regretted” her abortion.

Black shared her own personal story in reply to Brenneman:

Like you, I know what it is like to be single, pregnant, and uncertain of what the future holds.

I was carrying my youngest child to term when my first husband left me amid the demons of alcoholism.

Later, in my career as an emergency room nurse, I met other young women in this same precarious position. I believe that the pro-life community has a responsibility to those women. It is why I have long supported the work of my local crisis pregnancy center and other nonprofits that offer real, tangible help to women in this very situation – everything from diapers and formula to counseling and prayer.

Black discussed with Breitbart News that abortion safety laws – such as the one passed by Texas that has been challenged by Planned Parenthood – are intended to save both babies and their mothers:

We cast ourselves as advocates for women, as folks who want to be sure that women do have an ability to be able to function in society with women’s health, and so on. And that begins in the womb. The thought that you can just say you’re a women’s rights person, but you don’t have value for that little girl that may be in your womb – that’s where women’s rights begin, from the very beginning.

Second, I think that too many times we pro-lifers speak in a way in which maybe we don’t connect with those who have had abortions – where they may think that we’re judging them – and that’s not at all of what I’m about, nor do I think most pro-life women are about that. It’s about getting the truth out so that women have the ability to make the best decision for them. And I think that’s something that’s so important that we do as pro-life women.

Black reflected on a case of a botched abortion that she encountered while working as an emergency room nurse:

We did have a botched abortion come into the ER and this young lady had an out-of-town abortion and they had given her a 1-800 number to call. But, by the time she reached the hospital she was in a situation where she had lost so much blood that we could not save her. And so, when I talk about the reasons why these have to be safe places and why these women have to be given the information and they should be regulated, I don’t believe that any woman should lose a life at the hands of an unregulated, unsafe abortion clinic or even a fly-by-night abortion doctor. I just think that is so important that we get that message out there they deserve every bit as much consideration where they have those procedures done as much as any other procedure.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, said the first women’s rights advocates were pro-life women who recognized that abortion was wrong for both babies and their mothers. She said in a statement:

Mattie Brinkerhoff, a leader of the women’s suffrage movement, said that when a woman undergoes an abortion it is evidence she has been “greatly wronged.”

The Revolution, the newspaper owned and operated by Susan B. Anthony, published an op-ed asserting that, on abortion, “thrice guilty is he who, for selfish gratification, heedless of her prayers, indifferent to her fate, drove her to the desperation which impels her to the crime.”

Alice Paul was known to have called abortion “the ultimate exploitation of women.”

“We have never advocated, in any context, for the punishment of women who undergo abortion,” Dannenfelser said in response to Trump’s earlier remarks.

“As a convert to the pro-life movement, Mr. Trump sees the reality of the horror of abortion – the destruction of an innocent human life – which is legal in our country up until the moment of birth,” she continued. “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.”

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