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Trump suggests 'punishment' for abortions

Posted at 12:08 AM, Mar 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-31 06:18:59-04

BROOKFIELD, Wisconsin (AP) — Women who get abortions should receive "some form of punishment," Republican front-runner Donald Trump said Wednesday, without indicating specifically what the punishment should be.

The comments came in a heated exchange with MSNBC's Chris Matthews during the taping of a town hall in Wisconsin, which holds its primary next week.

"There has to be some form of punishment," Trump told Matthews in the exchange over whether abortion should be banned. The subject remains highly controversial decades after the Supreme Court legalized it.

Pressed by Matthews on the nature of that punishment, Trump responded: "I haven't determined what the punishment should be." He also suggested that women could continue to receive abortions, but at "illegal places."

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton quickly responded on Twitter, noting Trump's comments and adding, "Just when you thought it couldn't get worse. Horrific and telling."

Trump has often said he's opposed to abortions except in the case of three exceptions: rape, incest and when the life of the mother is at risk. He used to describe himself as in favor of abortion rights, but says his stance has evolved over the years.

Within hours, Trump's campaign sought to take back his comments in two separate statements, ultimately saying the billionaire businessman believes abortion providers — and not their patients — should be the ones punished.

"My position has not changed," Trump argued in both statements released by his campaign. "Like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions."

Jeff Meister, of Maryland Right to Life, said Trump's comments on MSNBC are less than helpful to his group's cause.

“It's unfortunate what was said.  It's unfortunate because it disregards how many women are hurt by abortion,” Meister said.

He believes abortion should be illegal.  And echoing Trump's later statement, he says if that was ever to happen, it would be abortion providers who would then be breaking the law.

“The people that need to be held accountable are the abortionists who prey on vulnerable women for the sake of their own profit,” Meister said.

There is a bill in the General Assembly that would make abortion illegal in Maryland, after the 20th week of pregnancy.

It has been heard in House and Senate committees but it's not clear whether it will come to a vote on either side before the end of the session on April 11.

Even before Trump's comments, recent polls have put his negative ratings nearing or even eclipsing 70 percent among women.

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