WASHINGTON, April 1, 2016 – Donald Trump’s recent comment on abortion may wound both his fight for the Republican nomination and a possible battle against Hillary Clinton in the general election.
In a conversation with MSNBC’s Chris Mathews on Wednesday Trump sparked outrage when he said, “Women should face some type of punishment for abortion should the procedure be made illegal in the United States.”
While Trump has been known for speaking his mind, this gaffe could end up biting him in the long run. It has already brought negative reaction from both sides of the aisle, and sparked comparisons to former Congressman Todd Akin, R-Mo., who made a huge gaffe during his campaign when he said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Akin’s statement led to major disasters for the GOP in 2012.
The “Never Trump” group, conservatives dedicated to keeping Trump from winning the nomination, immediately condemned the GOP front runner for his statements.
Other groups also responded negatively. Jeanne, Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund told the New York Times that efforts to punish individual women were “completely out of touch with the pro-life movement.” Conservative group Concerned Women for America director Penny Nance blasted Trump saying he doesn’t understand pro-life people or the life issue. Nance is a strong supporter of Ted Cruz.
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that she believes Donald Trump’s statements reflect the views of a large number of Republicans. “The Republicans all line up together. Now maybe they aren’t quite as open about it as Donald Trump was earlier today, but they all have the same position.”
Conservative women have previously expressed unease over other Trump statements. Trump’s attitude toward and demeaning statements about Megyn Kelly of Fox News angered women on both sides of the aisle when he said Kelly had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever” after she challenged him in a televised debate. CWA also attacked Trump for what he said to Kelly, by saying “Women don’t like mean and we certainly won’t vote for men or women we don’t trust. Trump’s biggest woman problem is how does he convince women to trust him to keep America safe?”
Women also became upset after Trump’s close aide Corey Lewandowski allegedly assaulted former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields. Several conservative female media pundits have signed a letter demanding Donald Trump fire Lewandowski for his unprofessional treatment of Fields. The Trump campaign announced that Lewandowski will not be fired even if convicted.
These latest incidents are causing Trump’s poll numbers to go down among women voters. According to a Washington Post poll, 73 percent of women view Trump unfavorably. In the same poll, more than half of female Republican voters said they could not imagine themselves voting for Trump.
In an effort to save his standing, Donald Trump backtracked his statement and said only the person performing the abortion should be punished. His supporter Ben Carson even made an appearance and said, “He answered the abortion question poorly because he wasn’t expecting it to be asked.”
This is not Trump’s first major gaffe, but it does seem to be the most important for women. His followers so far have excused his blunders, but abortion is an emotionally-charged issue that could cause serious damage to his campaign.
With the women’s vote critical for whoever wins the next election, Trump may have to seriously alter his approach. Otherwise, he could alienate one of the most important demographics for anyone who wants to get to the White House.