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Donald Trump drew swift condemnation for suggesting that women who have abortions should be punished if the procedure ever becomes illegal in the United States.

Trump made the statement during a pre-taped town hall.

“There has to be some form of punishment,” Trump said, when pressed by MSNBC host Chris Matthews on his anti-abortion position.

He did not say what that punishment would be. The campaign released a statement after the comment began to circulate on social media. 

"This issue is unclear and should be put back into the states for determination. Like Ronald Reagan, I am pro- life with exceptions, which I have outlined numerous times," the campaign stated. 

Trump then walked it back further with another statement.

"If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb. My position has not changed - like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions."

His rivals on both sides of the aisle pounced on the apparent misstep.

Ted Cruz issued the following statement:

“Once again Donald Trump has demonstrated that he hasn’t seriously thought through the issues, and he’ll say anything just to get attention. On the important issue of the sanctity of life, what’s far too often neglected is 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.”

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