Donald Trump said Wednesday that if abortion were to become illegal in the U.S., women who undergo the controversial procedure should be legally punished — a position the Republican front-runner scrambled to reverse just hours later.
In an interview with MSNBC host Chris Matthews set to air Wednesday evening, Trump said “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who have abortions — a position unpopular with even the most ardently pro-life.
Trump's comments were made in response to a question from Matthews: “Should abortion be punished? This is not something you can dodge.”
“Look, people in certain parts of the Republican Party, conservative Republicans, would say, ‘Yes, it should,’” the businessman and 2016 front-runner replied.
“How about you?” Matthews asked.
“I would say it’s a very serious problem and it’s a problem we have to decide on,” Trump said. “Are you going to send them to jail?”
“I’m asking you,” Matthews said.
“I am pro-life,” Trump said.
“How do you actually ban abortion?” Matthews pressed.
“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. “There has to be some form of punishment.”
“For the woman?” Matthews interjected.
“Yeah,” Trump replied as he nods.
The brash billionaire wasn't specific about what the punishment should be, only saying it would “have to be determined."
“They’ve set the law and frankly the judges, you’re going to have a very big election coming up for that reason because you have judges where it’s a real tipping point and with the loss of Scalia, who was a very strong conservative, this presidential election is going to be very important,” Trump said. “When you say what’s the law, nobody knows what the law is going to be. It depends on who gets elected.”
In a statement provided to TheBlaze, Trump said that "this issue is unclear and should be put back into the states for determination."
"Like Ronald Reagan, I am pro- life with exceptions, which I have outlined numerous times," he added.
Soon after, Trump released an additional statement, reversing his earlier remark.
"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 campaign statement said. "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 assertion that he is pro-life during the 2016 election season is a reversal from previous positions. During a 1999 interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Trump said he is “pro-choice in every respect.”
This post has been updated. Last update: 5:53 p.m. ET.