Donald Trump Has No Idea Where He Stands on Abortion

April 3rd 2016

Aron Macarow

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump took what can only be called a definitive stance on abortion during an MSNBC town hall with Chris Matthews on Wednesday, and his words left very little wiggle room. That is, until he backpedaled from his position an hour later, the first of five different positions the New York businessman would take on the controversial issue over the course of the next three days.


It was an epic series of flip-flops that revealed that Trump may not actually have a solid position at all.

On Wednesday, here's what Trump said in response to Matthews' question about whether women should face criminal punishment for obtaining illegal abortions: "The answer is ... that there has to be some form of punishment."

For the woman? Matthews said.

"Yeah," Trump responded firmly. "There has to be some form."

Trump's comments quickly appeared on Twitter, even before the MSNBC town hall aired later that evening. The backlash was swift.

Trump's first backpedal came an hour later.

By 3:30 p.m., Trump offered a new statement, saying that he was "pro-life with exceptions," a position similar to that of President Ronald Reagan. He also said that the issue was "unclear" enough to require further clarification at a state level.

But his confusion about his own policy beliefs didn't stop there.

Trump's stance on abortion ... take three.


Trump's clarification failed to stem negative press. So the campaign released a third set of comments on abortion on its official website, taking women out of the equation. Instead, Trump said that doctors and medical personnel performing illegal abortions should be held accountable for their actions, not the women obtaining an unlawful abortion. Women were no longer criminals; they were victims.

Incredibly, the Trump campaign said that the candidate's "position has not changed."

"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."

But that wasn't the end of it.

Trump's position gets murkier.

When all else fails, you have to keep changing your story until you find one that people want to hear. At least that's what the Trump campaign seemed to be doing. Trump continued to be hammered for his comments, and took again to the airwaves on Friday, appearing on CBS' "Face the Nation."

This time, Trump told moderator John Dickerson that he would like to keep current laws on abortion, without alteration:

"The laws are set now on abortion, and that's the way they're going to remain until they're changed. I would've preferred states' rights. ... At this moment, the laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way."

What about Trump's earlier statement that women or their doctors should be punished? Or his earlier statement that current laws were unsettled and lack clear direction?

It wasn't long before Trump's campaign appeared to contradict the candidate's statements again. Late on Friday, Hope Hicks, Trump's communications manager, issued a new statement to CBS News: "[Trump] will change the law through his judicial appointments and allow the states to protect the unborn. There is nothing new or different here."

For those having trouble keeping score, here's a quick synopsis of Trump's statements over the three-day period:

It's not over.

After a bad week, Trump admitted to "Fox News Sunday" that he "would have rather answered [Matthew's question] in a different manner."

Given the number of positions Trump and his campaign staked out over the course of three days, it's hard to say what he regrets. Trump has even said previously that he was "very pro-choice," The Washington Post reported. Will The Donald's understanding of the issue change again tomorrow or next week? If the last few days are any indication, the answer is likely "yes."