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Opinion: One way for Trump to lose even more women voters: say they should be punished for illegal abortions

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Appleton, Wisconsin.

(Scott Olson / Getty Images)

Within minutes of MSNBC broadcasting a clip of Donald Trump, Republican Party presidential front-runner, declaring that not only should abortion be illegal, but women who sought one illegally should be punished, a firestorm of criticism rained down on him. Not just from abortion-rights supporters and the Democratic candidates for president but from Republican candidate John Kasich and the antiabortion group March for Life, which put out a statement on its website saying, “No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion.”

How amazing! Donald Trump, the most divisive figure in politics in years, managed to unite both sides of one of the most divisive social issues of our time — abortion. Well, for about an hour, at least.

In fact, Trump set a cyber speed record for a politician recanting a really bad political statement. He couldn’t exactly deny that he told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on camera at a town hall meeting, “There has to be some form of punishment” for a woman who gets an abortion when it is illegal.

Instead he issued a statement saying he would punish the doctors who performed the abortion, not the woman. “The doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman,” the statement said. “The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb.”

This would certainly qualify as one of the more ridiculous things to come from Trump, who was once a supporter of abortion rights and now, as he tries to shore up his conservative bona fides, says he is pro-life and against abortion. Trump’s polling numbers are already low among women. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll this month shows Trump’s favorability with women overall is 21% positive and 70% negative. (With men, it’s 28% positive and 59% negative.) This blunder won’t help a man who already has a long record of making despicable remarks about women.

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While antiabortion advocates have made it as difficult as possible in various states for women to get an abortion, often use language that equates abortion with murder, and hope for a day when Roe vs. Wade is overturned, rarely do they suggest criminalizing a woman seeking an abortion in that world. That’s, at least, in part because, politically, even they know what Trump apparently didn’t: No one would stand for that.

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