Donald Trump entered the national abortion debate on Wednesday as smoothly as a burning oil tanker slamming into a fireworks warehouse. After causing an outcry by saying that if abortions are banned, women who have them should be punished, he went on to claim the issue was "unclear" before issuing a statement saying that doctors, not women who have abortions, would be the ones to be punished if abortion was outlawed. "My position has not changed—like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions," he insisted. A roundup of reactions:
- The statements came amid what Politico calls "24 hours of mayhem" for Trump that also included scrapping his GOP loyalty pledge, a fresh line of attack in the Corey Lewandowski case, and complaining about the Geneva Conventions. Politico predicts that with the party now hopelessly divided, a contested GOP convention is almost inevitable.
- Ben Carson offered a very Carsonesque defense of Trump in a CNN interview. "I don't think he really had a chance to really think about it," Carson said, adding that Trump was able to "come up with a more rational and informed type of answer" after talking to advisers. Carson said he agreed with Trump's latter position that abortion providers, not women, should be the ones to be punished if the US ever bans abortion.
- Ted Cruz didn't pass up the opportunity to slam Trump, the Hill reports. Trump "has demonstrated that he hasn't seriously thought through the issues, and he'll say anything just to get attention," Cruz said in a statement. "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," added Cruz, who, unlike Trump, does not support exceptions for rape and incest under an abortion ban, according to the Washington Post.
- Some anti-abortion activists are just as outraged as pro-choice groups by Trump's earlier comments, the New York Times reports. They say the call to punish women shows that Trump's shift toward being anti-abortion is very recent—and insincere. "No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion," says the president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund. "We invite a woman who has gone down this route to consider paths to healing, not punishment."
- The Washington Post fact-checks Trump's claim that his change of position mirrors Reagan's, finding that this time, Trump is not "glaringly incorrect," although the comparison is a "gratuitous one that lacks historical context, and not analogous to his own evolution." The Post gives him two Pinocchios on a scale that goes to four.
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