(CNSNews.com) – Pro-life leaders were vociferous in their rejection of Donald Trump’s statement to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that pro-lifers believe women should be punished for having an abortion, pointing out that their longstanding position is that women are also victims of abortionists as well as their unborn babies.
“We know how much women suffer from abortion, and how they are lied to by the abortion industry. Any penalty for illegal abortion should fall on abortion providers, not the women who turn to them in desperation,”said Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League.
That sentiment was echoed by many other pro-life leaders.
"The pro-life position is that you protect both the baby and her mother from a procedure that is destructive of both," said Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life.
"As for punishing the woman, those who have had abortions are already in prison. As the pastoral director of the world's largest ministry of healing after abortion, Rachel's Vineyard, and also of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, by which those who have had abortions speak out about their experiences, I know this very well.
"We don't aim to imprison them. We aim to liberate them from the shame and guilt and wounds abortion brings," Pavone said. "The punishment should be for the abortionist, not the baby's mom."
“No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, adding that “this is against the very nature of what we are about.”
“Being pro-life means wanting what is best for the mother and the baby. Women who choose abortion often do so in desperation and then deeply regret such a decision,” she pointed out.
“We have never advocated, in any context, for the punishment of women who undergo abortion,” agreed Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that works to elect pro-life candidates.
“As a convert to the pro-life movement, Mr. Trump sees the reality of the horror of abortion – the destruction of an innocent human life – which is legal in our country up until the moment of birth. But let us be clear: punishment is solely for the abortionist who profits off of the destruction of one life and the grave wounding of another,” Dannenfelser said.
"Trump's suggestion that he would support punishing women seeking abortions because there are ‘conservative Republicans’ advocating such a policy shows Mr. Trump is ill informed in this vital issue," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said.
"While Trump has since ‘clarified’ his position on punishing women, his statements suggest he should spend more time with pro-life conservatives to gain a better appreciation of what their goals and objectives really are.
“This is why Family Research Council Action has consistently supported legislation that protects the mother and her child. Abortion can cause both short-term and long-term physical complications for women, and can significantly affect a woman's ability to have healthy future pregnancies. In addition, abortion can have serious psychological ramifications that can affect a woman for life,” Perkins said.
“National Right to Life has long opposed the imposition of penalties on the woman on whom an abortion is attempted or performed,” NRTL president Carol Tobias also said in a statement. “Rather, penalties should be imposed against any abortionist who would take the life of an unborn child in defiance of statutes prohibiting abortions.
“National Right to Life-backed state and federal legislation, such as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the Dismemberment Abortion Ban, is targeted at stopping abortionists,” not punishing women, Tobias added.
During the taping of a town hall meeting in Green Bay, Wisconsin on Wednesday, MSNBC host Chris Matthews asked Trump: “Should a woman be punished for having an abortion? This is not something you can dodge. If you say abortion is a crime, or abortion is murder, you have to deal with it under the law. Should abortion be punished?”
After an exchange with Matthews, Trump responded: "The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.”
“For the woman?” Matthews asked.
‘Yeah, there has to be some form,” Trump replied.
“Ten cents, ten years, what?” Matthews continued.
“That I don’t know. That I don’t know,” Trump said.
Trump later backtracked.
“Like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions, which I have outlined numerous times.”
In the second statement clarifying his remarks, Trump said: “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,” Trump said.