Donald Trump is backtracking after his comments that abortion should be banned and women who defy any bans or laws should be punished ignited a firestorm of criticism.
The businessman and reality TV star-turned U.S. presidential hopeful made the comments in an interview with MSNBC Wednesday when asked if there should be consequences for women who have the procedure should it be outlawed.
“There has to be some form of punishment, yeah,” Trump told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, though he has “not determined what the punishment would be.”
When asked if men should bear any responsibility for abortions, Trump said no.
Trump, pressed on his position, acknowledged that banning abortions in the U.S. could send some people to “illegal places” for the procedure. Despite those risks, Trump says, “you have to ban it.”
Just hours later Trump issued a statement saying women who obtain abortions are victims, and it is doctors who continue to provide the procedure who should face punishment should it be banned.
“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 a 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.”
Abortion is a topic Trump has flip-flopped on over the years. In 1999 he called himself “very pro-choice.” By 2011 his stance had changed, with Trump declaring “I am pro-life,” in a speech at a Conservative Political Action conference.
Reaction to Trump’s initial statements has been swift:
Among Trump’s other controversial stances is his support for building a wall spanning the United States-Mexico border, deporting undocumented immigrants, and banning all Muslims from entering the U.S.