Donald Trump’s abortion comments draw fire from all sides

Donald Trump’s assertion that “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who have illegal abortions sparked a firestorm of criticism across the political spectrum, with Democrats and Republicans as well as abortion rights activists and antiabortion activists condemning the Republican frontrunner.

Hillary Clinton was among the first to do so.

“Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse,” the Democratic frontrunner tweeted. “Horrific and telling.”

“We can’t let someone with this much contempt for women’s rights anywhere near the White House,” Clinton wrote. “Even by his impossibly low standards, @realDonaldTrump’s suggestion that women be punished for seeking abortion is abhorrent.”

“What he said today is among the most dangerous and outrageous statements that I’ve heard anybody running for president say in a really long time,“ Clinton told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

Bernie Sanders agreed.

“Your Republican frontrunner, ladies and gentlemen,” the Vermont senator tweeted. “Shameful.”

“Shameful is probably understating that position,” Sanders told Maddow later. “To punish a woman for having an abortion is beyond comprehension.”

Trump later walked back his comments, first saying that the abortion issue should be decided by the states, and then falling in line with antiabortion groups that say doctors who perform illegal abortions should be punished, not women.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said Trump, who was once pro-abortion-rights, doesn’t understand what it means to be antiabortion.

“Once again Donald Trump has demonstrated that he hasn’t seriously thought through the issues, and he’ll say anything just to get attention,” Cruz said in a statement. “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.”

Cruz campaign staffer Brian Phillips put it a bit more bluntly.

Another Trump rival, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, condemned the GOP frontrunner, too.

“Of course women shouldn’t be punished,” Kasich said. “I don’t think that’s an appropriate response.”

Planned Parenthood, predictably, panned Trump.

But even antiabortion groups like March for Life slammed the GOP frontrunner, calling him “completely out of touch with the pro-life movement.”

“Being pro-life means wanting what is best for the mother and the baby,” March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said in a statement. “No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion. This is against the very nature of what we are about. We invite a woman who has gone down this route to consider paths to healing, not punishment.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, another group that opposes abortion, joined the chorus of people condemning Trump.

“Let us be clear,” Dannenfelser said in a statement. “Punishment is solely for the abortionist who profits off of the destruction of one life and the grave wounding of another.”

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Trump was blindsided by the abortion question.

“I don’t think he was prepared. I don’t think he saw that one coming. He handled it poorly,” Huckabee said. “It was a terrible answer. Nobody is going to defend what he said because the idea of, well, we’ve got to have some punishment, and even in his answer, it looked like he was fumbling around trying to figure out what to say.

“It was a mess-up, but to say that he hasn’t thought through the abortion issue — I think that’s a stretch,” Huckabee added. “He surely had not thought through that specific question of whether or not you should enter some type of legal consequence against the woman, and he should have thought it through.”

Dr. Ben Carson, who endorsed Trump, said Trump is still learning how to be a politician.

“I don’t believe that he was warned that that question was coming, and I don’t he really had a chance to really think about it,” Carson told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “That happens very frequently. And you know, what you develop with experience is how to answer that in a way that is not definitive. You know how politicians are. He hasn’t really learned that, because he’s not a politician, but he has now had time to come back and think about it and to talk with his people about it, and come up with a more rational and informed type of answer.”

Scottie Nell Hughes, a Trump supporter and tea party activist, called the abortion question was a “trap” set by Democrats and the “liberal media.”

“I think you have to look at the context and the situation he was in,” Hughes said on CNN’s “New Day” Thursday. “This is a typical trap that a lot of Democrats, lot of liberal media do when they ask the question [of] a pro-lifer or [of] a conservative. There is no easy answer out of it, because it is a complicated situation and because it’s a complex issue.”