WASHINGTON (TIP): US presidential wannabe Donald Trump has withdrawn a call for women who have abortions to be punished, only hours after suggesting it.
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump says women who end pregnancies should face punishment if the US bans abortion, triggering a torrent of criticism from both sides of the abortion debate, including his White House rivals.
After MSNBC broadcast a clip of an interview with Trump, the property mogul released a statement two hours later backing a ban on abortion and advocating punishments for abortion doctors, but reversing himself on the question of women themselves facing repercussions.
Mr. Trump then travelled to Washington to meet with his foreign policy advisers and remained out of the public eye for more than 24 hours, a lifetime by his standards.
Instead of appearing himself, he dispatched a succession of aides to TV news sets to explain that his position on abortion had not been fully formed, and that he simply “misspoke”.
“This was a misspeak,” Katrina Pierson, a spokeswoman, told CNN. “There was a misspeak here and you have a presidential candidate that clarified the record not once but twice.”
“The doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman,” Trump said in his last statement. “The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb.”
Trump faced a barrage of condemnation on Thursday over his comments that women who have abortions should be punished, highlighting his struggles with female voters and damaging his chances in a crucial upcoming contest.
Trump has won support from Republican voters for selling himself as a Washington outsider. But the New York real estate tycoon, who once supported abortion access, has come under pressure from conservatives to prove he is truly one of them.
At the same time, he has drawn criticism for comments that offended women and minority groups.
The Republican front-runner has fallen behind rival Ted Cruz in Wisconsin, where the next primary election will be held on Tuesday, April 5, and a recent poll showed that nearly three-quarters of women have an unfavorable opinion of him.
While Mr. Trump holds a commanding advantage in the Republican race, even some within his own party have suggested his weakness with women could be his undoing in a potential general election match-up with Hillary Clinton.
Polls show the former secretary of state leading Mr. Trump by an average of 11 points in such a scenario, with the gap widening to 16 per cent among women.
Mrs. Clinton, for her part, has slammed Mr. Trump’s comments on abortion as “outrageous and dangerous”.