- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Women who have abortions in violation of the law may face punishment, Donald Trump said Wednesday in a television interview, though he didn’t say what the penalty would entail.

It’s the second time in as many days that Mr. Trump appeared to contradict conservative orthodoxy, after he said Tuesday that education and health care are two of the most important functions of the federal government.

Speaking Wednesday to MSNBC, Mr. Trump said he’s pro-life and abortion should generally be banned, and when host Chris Matthews pressed him, Mr. Trump said that would involve punishment for the women. Most conservatives argue that the doctors who perform the procedure in violation of laws should face penalties, but not the women seeking to end the pregnancy.

“It’s a very serious problem and it’s a problem that we have to decide on,” Mr. Trump said, appearing to try to work through his position on the spot under questioning from Mr. Matthews. “There has to be some form of punishment.”

In a followup statement issued by his campaign, Mr. Trump later said the issue is unsettled and should be left to the states.

The issue quickly caught fire, with Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernard Sanders saying the GOP had veered off course.

“Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse. Horrific and telling,” Mrs. Clinton said in a Twitter post.

Democratic campaign operatives said Mr. Trump’s comments would alienate women, and said Republican candidates up and down the line would have to answer to voters if they run alongside Mr. Trump in November, should he be the nominee.

Pro-life advocates, who’d already sounded alarms about Mr. Trump’s commitment to their issue, said Mr. Trump got things completely backward.

“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,” March for Life, the massive annual protest against the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision establishing a national right to abortion, said in a Twitter post.

It was the second time in two days that Mr. Trump spoke off-the-cuff in a town hall, and appeared to offend conservative orthodoxy.

On Tuesday, at a Wisconsin town hall hosted by CNN, Mr. Trump was asked what the top three functions of the federal government are, and he ticked off national security, education and health care.

Those last two items don’t appear in the Constitution, and many conservatives argue the states should take the lead on them. Indeed, Mr. Trump’s own chief policy position on education is to try to reduce federal influence by ditching the Common Core standards that the Department of Education has encouraged.

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