During the taping of a “town hall” event moderated by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump called for an outright ban on abortion, even as he acknowledged that such a step would probably result in women seeking the procedure from illegal providers. Women who receive abortion under the ban, he said, should be subject to “punishment.”
And, just in case he hadn’t done quite enough to alienate a huge segment of the female electorate, when Matthews asked if he thought the father should bear any responsibility for an illegal abortion, he replied, “I would say no.”
The event, which is scheduled to be broadcast at 8 p.m. on MSNBC, comes on the same day that Trump has been busy defending his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who is facing a charge of battery in Florida after he manhandled a female reporter at a Trump event.
Lewandowski, who falsely claimed that he had never touched the woman, used his own Twitter account and the Trump campaign apparatus to smear his accuser, calling her delusional and attention-seeking. A police report relying on surveillance video later confirmed her claim.
The Trump campaign is already faring terribly among women in the United States, and his appearance on MSNBC tonight seems likely to further sour many women on his candidacy.
Asked about the legality of abortion, he said, “Well, you go back to a position like they had where they would perhaps go to illegal places but we have to ban it.”
“Should abortion be punished? This is not something you can dodge,” Matthews asked him.
“Look, people in certain parts of the Republican Party, conservative Republicans, would say, ‘Yes, it should.… I would say it’s a very serious, and it’s a problem we have to decide on. Are you going to send them to jail?”
Asked to elaborate, he said, “There has to be some form of punishment,” though exactly what, he said, would “have to be determined.”
Trump’s abortion comments appear to fall into a pattern that the billionaire has followed repeatedly throughout his campaign. He finds himself under fire for saying or doing something shocking, and intentionally or not, immediately does something else equally shocking that diverts attention from the first issue.
This time around, though, the distraction seems a little too close to issue Trump wants to avoid. The Lewandowski incident has particularly angered women, who saw the victim-blaming efforts of the Trump campaign as deeply misogynist. On Wednesday, a group of 16 conservative female reporters and pundits released a joint statement calling on Trump to fire Lewandowski – something his campaign has said he will not do even if the campaign manager is convicted in court.
Switching the focus to denying women their abortion rights and punishing those who have abortions may not have been the best tactical move, especially since the FDA just approved a new labeling requirement for the abortion drug—making it easier and cheaper for millions of women seeking a medication abortion.