Trump Backtracks: If Abortion Were Banned I’d Punish Providers, Not Women

March 30, 2016 5:22 p.m.

Donald Trump reversed his position Wednesday on what should happen to women who seek abortions if they were outlawed in the U.S., first claiming women should face “some form of punishment” and later framing them as “victims” of doctors performing an “illegal act.”

“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 an emailed 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.”

The GOP frontrunner ignited a firestorm of controversy for claiming during an MSNBC town hall, set to air in full on Wednesday night, that women should be punished for seeking to terminate their pregnancies if abortions were outlawed.

Shortly after a preview of those comments aired, Trump’s campaign issued a brief statement calling the abortion issue “unclear” and saying it “should be put back into the states for determination.” Trump later issued the formal statement saying abortion providers should be held responsible for the procedure, not women.

Both pro- and anti-choice groups were quick to condemn Trump’s initial remark for singling out women for punishment.

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