The presumptive Republican nominee for president decided to clarify his stance on abortion, having earlier claimed that women who have the procedure should be punished. In an interview with The New York Times Magazine's Robert Draper, published Wednesday, Donald Trump said that he meant women "punish themselves" for having abortions, which is still incredibly offensive. If the idea was to backtrack on his comments in order to improve how women view him, then he bungled it horribly.
When Trump was questioned by MSNBC's Chris Matthews in March on whether or not women should be punished for having abortions, he responded: "There has to be some form of punishment." The bold statement received severe backlash, leading Trump to later claim that he meant abortion providers should be punished, not the women seeking the procedure. Trump attempted to save himself further by telling Draper, "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." Draper said that Trump's statement was pretty unconvincing, and seemed to come about only because the media continued to ask him how he would punish women.
Regardless, claiming that women punish themselves for having abortions isn't much better than threatening to put them behind bars. It perpetuates the myth that women who have abortions will invariably regret that decision, which just isn't true. Research shows that most women feel relieved after ending an unwanted or dangerous pregnancy. The myth fuels anti-choice lawmakers' drive to protect women from their "harmful" choices and make abortion less accessible.
It's also pretty presumptuous of Trump to claim to have any idea of what women think or feel. Throughout his campaign, he hasn't met with women who have had abortions to hear their stories, nor talked to abortion providers about why women end pregnancies. It's impossible for him to know what that experience is like. In order to confidently say women punish themselves for abortions, he would have to at least talk to some women first.
While Trump's backtrack may sound less extreme than locking up women for having abortions, it carries just as much ammo against women's right to choose what to do with their bodies. Using the words "punish" and "abortion" in the same sentence is never good for women. No one wants to be told how they feel, what's best for them, or what choices they have to make.