DONALD TRUMP: You know, I'm pro-life and I was begrudgingly the other way. But I have to say, when those questions were asked, and it was many, many years ago I wasn't a politician and it was like a question that was never asked of me. …I've always hated the concept of abortion. Always hated it. And, through various things and seeing various things, I've totally evolved on that issue and I'm pro-life.
CHUCK TODD: Should some form of abortion always be legal?
TRUMP: Well, to me, I have exceptions. Rape, incest, if the mother's going to die...
TODD: You said life of the mother. What about health of the mother?
TRUMP: Well, I said actually if the mother's close to death. I'm talking about death. If, you know, because you sort of say like, well maybe she's not feeling too well.
TODD: Well that's the line here. What's the constitutional right between the mother and the unborn child? Who's constitutional rights matter more?
TRUMP: My statement on that happens to be, you know, if the mother will die and you going know that. And, the problem with life is, if you say life, what does life mean. Do you have a cold and you're going to end up having an abortion. So, I have the three exceptions and pretty much the standard three exceptions that many Republicans have.
16 August, 2015: NBC's "Meet the Press"
(1:20 - 2:45)
Megyn Kelly: Mr. Trump, in 1999 you said you were quote “very pro-choice” even supporting partial birth abortion. You favored an assault weapons ban as well. In 2004 you said in most cases you identified as a democrat. Even in this campaign your critics say you often sound more like a democrat then a republican, calling several of your opponents on this stage things like clowns and puppets. When did you actually become a republican?
Donald Trump: I’ll tell you what. I’ve evolved on many issues over the years and you know who else has is Ronald Reagan. He evolved on many issues. I am pro-life and if you look at the question, I was in business, they asked me a question as to pro-life or choice and I said, if you let it run, that I hate the concept of abortion. I hate the concept of abortion. And since then I’ve very much evolved and what happened is friends of mine years ago were going to have a child and it was going to be aborted and it wasn’t aborted and that child today is a total superstar, a great great child. And I saw that and I saw other instances and I am very very proud to say that I am pro-life.
6 August, 2015: Fox News Republican Primary Debate
(0:00 – 1:18)
Donald Trump said that if abortion were illegal in the U.S., women who the procedure should be punished.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Should the woman be punished? For having an abortion?
DONALD TRUMP: Well look.
MATTHEWS: This is not something you can dodge.
TRUMP: It’s not—
MATTHEWS: If you say abortion is a crime or abortion is murder, you have to deal with it under the law. Should abortion be punished?
TRUMP: Well people in certain parts of the Republican party and conservatives Republicans would say, yes they should be punished.
MATTHEWS: How about you?
TRUMP: I would say that it’s a very serious problem and it’s a problem that we have to decide on. It’s very hard—
MATTHEWS: But you’re for banning it.
TRUMP: Are you going to say, well wait, are you going to say put them in jail? Is that the punishment you’re talking about?
MATTHEWS: No I’m asking you because you say you want to ban it. What does that mean?
TRUMP: I am against. I am pro-life. Yes. I am pro-life.
MATTHEWS: How do you ban abortion? How do you actually do it?
TRUMP: You know you’ll go back to a position like where they had where people perhaps will go to illegal places.
TRUMP: But you have to ban it. I’m against—
MATTHEWS: Yeah you ban it but they go to someone who flunked out of medical school and-
TRUMP: Are you Catholic?
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think I-I-I
TRUMP: And how do you feel about the Catholic church’s position?
MATTHEWS: I accept the teaching authority of my church on moral issues.
TRUMP: I know, but do you know what their position on abortion is?
MATTHEWS: Yes, I do.
TRUMP: And do you concur with that position?
MATTHEWS: I concur with their moral position but legally I want to get to the question—
TRUMP: No but let me ask you. What do you say about—
MATTHEWS: It’s not funny.
TRUMP: It’s really not funny. What do you say about your church? They’re very very strict.
MATTHEWS: The churches make their moral judgments, but you’re running for President of the United States to become Chief Executive of the United States. Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no, as a principle?
TRUMP: The answer is there has to be some form of punishment.
MATTHEWS: For the woman?
TRUMP: Yea, there has to be some form
MATTHEWS: 10 cents, 10 years, what?
TRUMP: I don’t know. That I don’t know.
MATTHEWS: Well why not, you take positions on everything else.
Note: Hours following the town hall, Trump walked back his remarks and released a clarification statement.
"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."