U.S. President hopeful Donald Trump sent the Internet into a meltdown when he told MSNBC host Chris Matthews at a town-hall-style forum that women who have abortions must be punished.
Realising that even by his outlandish standards that was going too far, less than three hours later he issued a written statement saying that such a ban would criminalise only those performing the procedure, not the women getting abortions.
“The woman is a victim in this case, as is the life in her womb,” he says.
Mr. Trump, who formerly supported abortion rights but in recent years has changed his position, sought to dodge the question a few times, calling it “a very serious problem.”
“I am pro-life,” Mr. Trump said after a few attempts. Asked how an abortion ban would be put in place, he said, “You go back to a position like they had where they would perhaps go to illegal places. But you have to ban it.”
Finally, Mr. Matthews asked Mr. Trump, “You’re about to be chief executive of the United States. Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no?”
Mr. Trump, whose daughter Ivanka, 34, gave birth to son Theodore a few days earlier, responded: “The answer is there has to be some form of punishment.”
“Ten days?” Mr. Matthews asked. “Ten years?”
Mr. Trump replied, “I don’t know,” adding, “It’s a very complicated position.”
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, quickly called Mr. Trump’s remarks “horrific and telling” in a post on Twitter.
Pro-life groups were also quick to condemn Mr Trump for his remarks.
“No one in the pro-life movement wants to punish women who have abortions,” says Kristan Hawkins, the president of U.S. advocacy group Students for Life.
“Women facing crisis pregnancies deserve compassion, love, understanding and tangible support, which is why pro-lifers are against abortion.
“To suggest that women be punished for their decision is an inept and reckless statement and should be rescinded.”