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Trump reverses after saying women should be punished for having abortions

Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton branded Donald Trump’s remark 'horrific', Bernie Sanders called it 'shameful' and even major pro-life groups spoke out strongly against punishing women who have abortions.

WASHINGTON // Women who have illegal abortions should be punished, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump said Wednesday, before backtracking after a firestorm erupted over his latest controversial comment.

Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton branded Mr Trump’s remark “horrific,” Bernie Sanders called it “shameful” and even major pro-life groups spoke out strongly against punishing women who have abortions.

TMr rump’s comment came during a combative interview on MSNBC, with host Chris Matthews pressing the billionaire to specify how a woman should be punished, if abortion were banned in the United States.

“This is the difficult situation you placed yourself in, by saying you’re pro-life you want to ban abortion,” Mr Matthews said. “How do you ban abortion without some kind of sanction?”

Mr Trump tried to sidestep the question, saying he had not determined what kind of punishment a woman should face for having an abortion, but acknowledged “the answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.”

Asked if the man who gets the woman pregnant should be punished, Mr Trump responded, “I would say no.”

The 69 year old, who during his political life has been a Democrat and an independent and is only a recent convert to the “pro-life” anti-abortion position, has been accused in the past of flip-flopping on the hot-button issue.

Mrs Clinton wasted little time in voicing her disgust at the candidate’s remarks, the latest in a series which has seen him accused of peddling misogyny and anti-Muslim sentiment on the campaign trail.

“Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse. Horrific and telling,” she said in a tweet.

As the outcry grew, the Clinton campaign posted a flurry of tweets saying all women deserve equal access to healthcare, apparently seeking to capitalise on the momentum.

“We can’t let someone with this much contempt for women’s rights anywhere near the White House,” one posting said.

Mrs Clinton and other Democrats are defenders of a woman’s right to obtain an abortion, a procedure still fiercely opposed by many Republicans, four decades after the US Supreme Court affirmed its legality nationwide.

Even Trump’s ultraconservative rival Ted Cruz, an evangelical Texas senator, bashed Mr Trump, accusing the real estate mogul of saying “anything just to get attention”.

Ohio Governor John Kasich, the third candidate in the Republican race for the White House, also weighed in: “Of course women shouldn’t be punished,” he told MSNBC.

Women’s health provider Planned Parenthood, which conservatives oppose for its abortion practices, said Mr Trump “is now inciting violence against women for making a decision that’s theirs to make.”

The Trump campaign later Wednesday issued a statement on abortion, without mentioning his remarks to MSNBC, but reversing the stance he took in the interview.

If abortion were to become illegal under US law, then the doctor or any other person involved in performing the procedure would be legally responsible, the 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,” said the statement.

* Agence France-Presse

Published: March 31, 2016 04:00 AM

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