Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in a New York Times Magazine interview published Wednesday tried to spin his controversial suggestion that abortion patients should be punished if the GOP outlaws the procedure.
“I didn’t mean punishment for women like prison. I’m saying women punish themselves,” Trump claimed when questioned about saying in March that patients should face “some form of punishment” for receiving abortion care. “I didn’t want people to think in terms of ‘prison’ punishment. And because of that I walked it back.”
Times contributing writer Robert Draper noted that Trump’s latest explanation seemed unlikely and an alternative take on the issue had been provided by an adviser to the candidate. “A more believable explanation, furnished by a senior adviser for the Trump campaign, is this: Trump, a serial non-apologizer, initially saw nothing wrong with his remark and refused to walk it back,” Draper wrote.
Only when every network chief executive and over 100 media outlets besieged the Trump campaign with requests for additional comment on how women should be punished for abortions did the Trump campaign turn to an ally: Chris Christie, whose tenure as the Republican governor of the blue state of New Jersey had given him experience placating both social conservatives and the moderate voters Trump hoped to attract in the general election. A member of Christie’s political team helped draft a statement that essentially repudiated Trump’s earlier one.
The candidate recited his oft-used line to Draper that he was “going to be better to women on women’s issues than Hillary Clinton and everybody else combined,” citing his position that Planned Parenthood does important work. Trump has said he would defund the health-care organization as long as it continued to provide abortion care.
“Frankly, for the general election I think that’s a very good issue for me,” Trump told the magazine.
Though Trump has touted his anti-choice positions on the campaign trail, the candidate’s stances on abortion rights and reproductive health care have repeatedly shifted, leading many to question where he truly stands on the matter.
Anti-choice leaders, however, are supporting the candidate, and even Troy Newman, president of extremist group Operation Rescue, has signaled that he could back Trump.