Two days after GOP presidential contender Donald Trump caused a firestorm after walking back his statement that women who have illegal abortions should receive some form of “punishment,” he said during another interview that abortion “laws are set,” and they should be left that way until changed.
In an interview on CBS’ Face the Nation – the broadcast of which will be aired on Sunday – Trump again attempted to clarify his views to moderator John Dickerson.
When asked by Dickerson – from a pro-abortion perspective — “What would you do to further restrict access to abortion?” Trump responded, “The laws are set now on abortion and that’s the way they’re going to remain until they’re changed.”
“A question was asked to me. And it was asked in a very hypothetical,” Trump explained about his prior MSNBC interview with Chris Matthews. “And it was said, ‘Illegal, illegal.’ I’ve been told by some people that was an older line answer and that was an answer that was given on a, you know, basis of an older line from years ago on a very conservative basis.”
When Dickerson mentioned a prior Bloomberg interview during which Trump reportedly said he believed abortion should be banned after a certain point in pregnancy, Trump replied, “I would’ve preferred states’ rights. I think it would’ve been better if it were up to the states. But right now, the laws are set….At this moment, the laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way.”
“Do you think abortion is murder?” Dickerson asked. After considering the question for several moments, Trump responded, “I have my opinions on it, but I’d rather not comment on it.”
“You said you were very pro-life,” Dickerson followed up. “Pro-life means that…abortion is murder.”
“I mean, I do have my opinions on it. I just don’t think it’s an appropriate forum,” said Trump.
“But you don’t disagree with that proposition, that it’s murder?” Dickerson asked.
“No, I don’t disagree with it,” Trump replied.
When Dickerson suggested to Trump that some have said this week has been the worst of his campaign, the GOP candidate said, “I think I’ve had many bad weeks and I’ve had many good weeks. I don’t see this as the worst week in my campaign.”
“But certainly, I’ve had some weeks, and you’ve been reporting on them, where that was the end,” he added. “And then the next week, you see poll numbers where they went up and everybody’s shocked.”
As The Hill reports, Trump campaign manager Hope Hicks defended Trump’s abortion comments to CBS, referring to them as “nothing new.”
Mr. Trump gave an accurate account of the law as it is today and made clear it must stay that way now – until he is President. Then he will change the law through his judicial appointments and allow the states to protect the unborn. There is nothing new or different here.
When pressed by Matthews on Wednesday, “If you say abortion is a crime or abortion is murder, you have to deal with it under the law,” Trump replied that the “answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.”
Later the same day, 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.
Trump’s comments immediately caused a stir on both sides of the abortion issue. Family Research Council Action President Tony Perkins said:
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. 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.”
The abortion industry – which is largely backing Hillary Clinton for president – seized upon Trump’s comments in an effort to condemn the entire Republican Party.
In an appearance on CNN’s New Day Thursday, Dawn Laguens, vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund said:
I think the only outrage on the side of Cruz, and of Kasich and the pro-life or anti-abortion opponents is they have been outed by Donald Trump, being kind of the id of the Republican Party. A plan to punish women who seek abortion in this country is not news, it’s actually the Republican Party platform. And Donald Trump just said more bluntly, as he is usual to do, that he supports the same dangerous and extreme agenda that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has voted on in the Senate and John Kasich has made the law of the land.
When asked about Trump’s statements on abortion, Cruz told ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel, “Being pro-life means standing and defending the unborn. But it also means defending moms. Defending women. And defending the incredible gift women have to bring life into the world.”
Cruz added, “Donald’s comments, they were unfortunate, they were wrong and I strongly disagree with it.”