UPDATE: 5:30 p.m. EDT -- Donald Trump said Wednesday he would punish women who have an abortion if he becomes president and the procedure is outlawed, but his campaign says he didn't mean it. The campaign released a statement after his comments that said a doctor who performed the procedure "would be held legally responsibly, not the woman."
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said there would “have to be some form of punishment” for women who have abortions if he becomes president. Trump, who is anti-abortion, said women who continue to have abortions if the procedure becomes illegal could even see jail time.
Trumps’ Wednesday remarks during a taping of an MSNBC town hall represent his most extreme remarks about women’s rights and abortion access yet. When pressed by host Chris Matthews on his anti-abortion position, Trump said, "I would say it’s a very serious problem, and it’s a problem we have to decide on. Are you going to send them to jail?”
If abortion is outlawed, women would continue to seek out abortions, Trumps acknowledged.
"Well, you go back to a position like they had where they would perhaps go to illegal places, but we have to ban it." Trump said the punishment would “have to be determined," Bloomberg reported.
Since the Supreme Court ruled abortions legal in the U.S. in the 1973 landmark case Roe v. Wade, Republican lawmakers have sought to undermine the ruling and make it difficult for women to obtain the medical procedure. In 38 states, women must have an abortion performed by a licensed physician, while 18 states require an abortion to be performed in a hospital. Such laws are unnecessary and are intended to limit women's medical rights, pro-abortion groups argue.
“Far too many women in this country are facing insurmountable barriers to reproductive healthcare,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a recent press release.
Trump has shifted his views on abortion since 1999, when he supported women's right to choose. "I've evolved on many issues over the years. And you know who else has? Ronald Reagan evolved on many issues. And I am pro-life. And if you look at the question, I was in business. They asked me a question as to pro-life or choice. And I said if you let [that quoted excerpt] run, that I hate the concept of abortion. I hate the concept of abortion. And then since then, I've very much evolved. And what happened is friends of mine years ago were going to have a child, and it was going to be aborted. And it wasn't aborted. And that child today is a total superstar, a great, great child. And I saw that. And I saw other instances. And I am very, very proud to say that I am pro-life," he said during a GOP presidential debate in August.