Leave it to "moderate" John Kasich, the scourge of workers (especially teachers), schoolchildren, and women in need of health care, to criticize Donald Trump for one of the few commendable things the Republican front-runner has said. "Yesterday," Kasich stated in a litany of his rival's heresies, "he proposed punishing women who received abortions." (Imagine the nerve of contemplating punishment of someone for behavior the Governor wants outlawed!)
A Bloomberg writer offers this summary of the exchange from the taping at the MSNBC town hall Wednesday evening:
Host Chris Matthews pressed Trump on his anti-abortion position, repeatedly asking him whether abortion should be punished if it is outlawed. “This is not something you can dodge,” Matthews said.
“Look, people in certain parts of the Republican Party, conservative Republicans, would say, ‘Yes, it should,’” Trump answered.
“How about you?” Matthews asked.
“I would say it’s a very serious problem and it’s a problem we have to decide on. Are you going to send them to jail?” Trump said.
“I’m asking you,” Matthews said.
“I am pro-life,” Trump said. Asked how a ban would actually work, Trump said, “Well, you go back to a position like they had where they would perhaps go to illegal places but we have to ban it,” Trump said.
Matthews then pressed Trump on whether he believes there should be punishment for abortion if it were illegal.
“There has to be some form of punishment,” Trump said. “For the woman?” Matthews asked. “Yeah,” Trump said, nodding.
Trump said the punishment would “have to be determined.”
Unfortunately, the remarks were later clarified in an attempt to retract them... or retracted in order to clarify them- and not once, but twice. The final statement read
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.
It's a pity. Donald Trump tried on the cloak of political incorrectness in the interview and was pummeled by both pro-life and pro-choice advocates. "Trump's abortion comment rankles just about everyone," in the words of a Houston Chronicle headline. It is, however, a line of questioning a candidate should have expected because this is a signature issue of Chris Matthews, one he raises periodically with supporters of forced birth. The notion that abortion can be prohibited without penalty applied to the woman who seeks, procures, and pays for a procedure thought to be killing and condemned as "murder" is intellectually indefensible.
It is, unfortunately, strategically defensible, even wise, as indicated by the panic which must have set in with the campaign once it dawned on them that Trump had committed a cardinal sin by violating a major tenet of the anti-abortion rights crowd. This will be a confirmation of what the "lamestream" media (in Sarah Palin's words) is all about as it ignores this fundamental contradiction. And now Donald Trump's about-face has exposed what Charlie Pierce recognizes is
the logical end to all anti-choice arguments and all anti-choice philosophy, but one that causes anti-choice politicians to hide behind the drapes out of sheer political cowardice. (You have to love a movement that is brave enough to shoot doctors from ambush, but chickens out on the obvious legal ramifications of what it says are its unshakable beliefs?)