Trump's excuse about punishing women for abortion sounds a lot like bullshit

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In a revealing profile of Donald Trump published Wednesday in The New York Times Magazine, writer Robert Draper asked the presumptive Republican presidential nominee about having said that women should face "some form of punishment" for having abortions.

Here's the relevant bit:

Then there was his interview the previous week with the MSNBC host Chris Matthews, who asked him whether his pro-life views meant that he also supported criminal penalties for a woman who had an abortion. Trump had replied that yes, there should be “some form of punishment.” Now he argued to me, rather unconvincingly, that he had been misinterpreted: “I didn’t mean punishment for women like prison. I’m saying women punish themselves. I didn’t want people to think in terms of ‘prison’ punishment. And because of that I walked it back.”


It's clear why Draper wouldn't include the text of the MSNBC town hall exchange in the profile, but it's worth adding here.

During the interview, in March, Trump was asked, repeatedly, whether he believed women should be punished for having abortions. He answered, repeatedly, that they should (emphasis mine):

MATTHEWS: Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no as a principle?

TRUMP: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.

MATTHEWS: For the woman?

TRUMP: Yes, there has to be some form.

MATTHEWS: Ten cents? Ten years? What?

TRUMP: Let me just tell you—I don't know. That I don't know. That I don't know.

MATTHEWS: Why not?

TRUMP: I don't know.

MATTHEWS: You take positions on everything else.

TRUMP: Because I don't want to—I frankly, I do take positions on everything else. It's a very complicated position. […]

MATTHEWS: I'm asking you, what should a woman face if she chooses to have an abortion?

TRUMP: I'm not going to do that.

MATTHEWS: Why not?

TRUMP: I'm not going to play that game.


TRUMP: You have…

MATTHEWS: You said you're pro-life.

TRUMP: I am pro-life.

MATTHEWS: That means banning abortion. […]

MATTHEWS: You tell me what the law should be.

TRUMP: I have—I have not determined…

MATTHEWS: Just tell me what the law should be. You say you're pro-life.

TRUMP: I am pro-life.

MATTHEWS: What does that mean?

TRUMP: With exceptions. I am pro-life. I have not determined what the punishment would be.

MATTHEWS: Why not?

TRUMP: Because I haven't determined it.

So how do you square the idea that Trump meant women "punish themselves" with the statement that he believes there should be some as-yet-undetermined form of punishment for women who have abortions? You can't.