Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump set off a firestorm of condemnation Wednesday with a call to punish women who obtain abortions if the procedure is banned in the United States.
Hours later, he revised his position, issuing a written statement saying that such a ban would criminalize 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 said.
Trump's assertion that women should be punished for getting an abortion, which came during an interview on MSNBC, set off a storm of criticism on both sides of the divisive issue.
Trump's rival, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, said the initial statements reflected Trump's lack of policy know-how. "Once again, Donald Trump has demonstrated that he hasn't seriously thought through the issues, and he'll say anything just to get attention,'' Cruz said.
Ohio Governor John Kasich, also a fellow GOP candidate, said, “I don’t think that’s an appropriate response." Abortion, he said, is a "difficult enough situation" without any added effort "to punish somebody.”
Both Cruz and Kasich oppose abortion rights.
The Democratic front-runner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, tweeted her reaction: "Just when you thought it couldn't get worse. Horrific and telling."
Fellow Democrat and pro-choice candidate Bernie Sanders simply called Trump's position "shameful."
The brouhaha came days before the next major primary in Wisconsin, where polls show Trump trailing Cruz. Trump's path to the nomination would narrow considerably if he were to lose the Midwestern state.