“Outrageous and dangerous,” Hillary Clinton said to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. “Shameful,” tweeted Bernie Sanders.
The condemnations rolled in quickly after Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews during a town hall event Wednesday that, if abortion became illegal, women should be subject to “some form of punishment.” While Trump walked back the comments only hours later — instead shifting blame onto doctors if abortion was outlawed — rival candidates, women’s groups and commentators were already in uproar.
“Once again Donald Trump has demonstrated that he hasn’t seriously thought through the issues, and he’ll say anything just to get attention,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said in a statement. Cruz added that “being pro-life is not simply about the unborn child; it’s also about the mother — and creating a culture that respects her and embraces life. Of course we shouldn’t be talking about punishing women; we should affirm their dignity and the incredible gift they have to bring life into the world.”
Similarly, after his own town hall event with MSNBC, Ohio Gov. John Kasich also strongly disagreed with Trump’s position. “Absolutely not,” he said when asked by MSNBC’s Chuck Todd about the issue. “I don’t think that’s an appropriate response and it’s a difficult enough situation then to try to punish somebody.”
In addition, women’s groups on both sides of the aisle — and on both sides of the abortion issue — also condemned the comment.
“Mr. Trump is out of touch with the pro-life movement and its goals to help those who have been deceived by the culture and this industry,” said Penny Nance, president and CEO of Concerned Women for America, a conservative pro-life group that has opposed Trump previously. “As suffragist Alice Paul said, ‘abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women’ and we agree. No one is advocating for the imprisonment of women seeking abortions.”
Pro-choice Democratic super PAC EMILY’s List took aim at Trump by highlighting controversial epithets he’s used to describe women in the past. “The last person women need to police their health care decisions is someone who sees them not as people, but as ‘fat pigs,’ ‘bimbos,’ and ‘disgusting animals,’” the group said in a statement. “While it’s easy to get distracted by the daily drama of his campaign, let’s not forget that Trump has adopted the same extreme policies embraced and advanced by the most fringe in his party.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also called it “just the latest outrage in Republicans’ ongoing campaign to dismantle women’s right to comprehensive health care.”
Meanwhile, many on the Republican side continued to worry that Trump’s remarks were only the latest crack in the ongoing fracturing of the GOP.
“For all these Vichy Republicans out there considering capitulating to Donald Trump, this instance serves as another reminder that it is wrong,” Ryan Williams, a Republican strategist who worked for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, told NBC News. “Trump needs to be stopped before he somehow gets to the nomination. We’re past the point of no return with him.”