Memo To Media: Trump Said Abortion Should Be Punished “As A Principle”

Media Are Falsely Claiming Trump Only Responded To Hypothetical Scenario In Which Abortion Is “Made Illegal”

Some media figures are lending Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump credence by characterizing his remark that “there has to be some form of punishment” for abortion as based on a hypothetical scenario in which abortion is “made illegal.” But MSNBC host Chris Matthews' question was, “Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no, as a principle?” He didn't include the premise that abortion had been officially criminalized.

Donald Trump Says “There Has To Be Some Form Of Punishment” For Abortion In Response To Chris Matthews' Question: “Do You Believe In Punishment For Abortion ... As A Principle?”

Trump: “There Has To Be Some Form Of Punishment” For Abortion. During a March 30 MSNBC town hall, Trump said that “there has to be some form of punishment,” in response to host Chris Matthews' question, “Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no as a principle?” Earlier in the town hall, Trump said “you have to ban” abortion and Matthews responded by asking Trump how he would ban the procedure, later asking, “If you say abortion is a crime or abortion is murder, you have to deal with it under law. Should abortion be punished?” He did not offer the premise of abortion being legally criminalized. From PolitiFact's transcript of the town hall:

CHRIS MATTHEWS (HOST): Should the woman be punished for having an abortion?

DONALD TRUMP: Look...

MATTHEWS: This is not something you can dodge.

TRUMP: It's a -- no, no...

MATTHEWS: If you say abortion is a crime or abortion is murder, you have to deal with it under law. Should abortion be punished?

TRUMP: Well, people in certain parts of the Republican Party and conservative Republicans would say, “yes, they should be punished.”

MATTHEWS: How about you?

TRUMP: I would say that it's a very serious problem. And it's a problem that we have to decide on. It's very hard.

MATTHEWS: But you're for banning it?

TRUMP: I'm going to say -- well, wait. Are you going to say, put them in jail? Are you -- is that the (inaudible) you're talking about?

MATTHEWS: Well, no, I'm asking you because you say you want to ban it. What's that mean?

TRUMP: I would -- I am against -- I am pro-life, yes.

MATTHEWS: What is ban -- how do you ban abortion? How do you actually do it?

TRUMP: Well, you know, you go back to a position like they had where people will perhaps go to illegal places --

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

TRUMP: But you have to ban it.

[...]

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: Yeah, there has to be some form.

MATTHEWS: Ten cents? Ten years? What?

TRUMP: I don't know. That I don't know. That I don't know. [PolitiFact, 3/30/16]

Some Media Figures Say Trump's Comments Were Based On A Hypothetical Scenario In Which Abortion “Were Made Illegal”

CNN's Kate Bolduan: Trump Said “Women Who Get Abortions Should Face Punishment If Abortions Would Become Illegal.” On the March 31 edition of CNN's At This Hour, host Kate Bolduan said Trump started fierce backlash after saying “women who get abortions should face punishment if abortions would become illegal.” [CNN, At This Hour, 3/31/16]

CNN's Carol Costello: “Trump Said If Abortion Were Outlawed, Any Women Who Violates That Ban Should Be Punished.” On the March 31 edition of CNN Newsroom, host Carol Costello described Trump's remarks as “if abortion were outlawed any woman who violates that ban should be punished.” [CNN, CNN Newsroom, 3/31/16]

CNN's Don Lemon To Guest: “Why Are Folks So Offended By The Notion Of Punishing Women ... Even If Abortion Were Illegal?” On the March 30 edition of CNN Tonight, host Don Lemon asked his guest, “Why are folks so offended by the notion of punishing women for this, even if abortion were illegal?” [CNN, CNN Tonight, 3/30/16]

Fox's Megyn Kelly: Trump Said There Should Be “Punishment For Women Who Have The Procedure If It Is Made Illegal.” On the March 30 edition of The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly characterized Trump's response as saying there should be “punishment for women who have the procedure if it is made illegal.” [Fox News, The Kelly File, 3/30/16]

Fox's Geraldo Rivera: Trump Said A Woman “Should Be Criminally Prosecuted If Abortion Is Outlawed.” On the March 30 edition of Hannity, Fox host Geraldo Rivera described Trump's response as “saying that if a woman has an abortion that she should be criminally prosecuted if abortion is outlawed.” [Fox News, Hannity, 3/30/16]

Fox's Garrett Tenney: “Trump Was Asked, If Abortions Were Made Illegal, Who Should Be Punished When A Woman Tries To Have One?” On the March 31 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, correspondent Garrett Tenney said “Trump was asked, if abortions were made illegal, who should be punished when a woman tries to have one?” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/31/16]

MSNBC's Jose Diaz-Balart: Matthews Asked Trump “What He Would Do As President If Abortions Were Made Illegal.”  On the March 31 edition of The Place for Politics, host Jose Diaz-Balart said, “Trump ignited a firestorm over what he would do as president if abortions were made illegal.” [MSNBC, The Place for Politics3/31/16]

MSNBC's Steve Kornacki: Trump Said “If Abortion Were To Be Made Illegal, A Woman Should Be Punished Under The Law For Seeking One.”  On the March 31 edition of The Place for Politics, host Steve Kornacki described Trump's remarks as “if abortion were to be made illegal, a woman should be punished under the law for seeking one.” [MSNBC, The Place for Politics3/31/16]

MSNBC's Kate Snow: Matthews Asked Trump, “If Abortion Became Illegal ... Should A Woman Then Be Punished For Having An Abortion?”  On the March 30 edition of MSNBC's The Place for Politics, Kate Snow described the Matthews-Trump exchange as “Chris Matthews asked Donald Trump ...if abortion became illegal in this country, should a woman then be punished for having an abortion?” [MSNBC, The Place for Politics3/30/16]