Donald Trump's Evolving Stance on Abortion

The real estate mogul's views have changed dramatically over the years.

ByABC News
March 31, 2016, 4:20 PM

— -- Donald Trump's position on abortion has been a key area of criticism from his competitors since the start of the presidential race and now it's back in the limelight.

The real estate mogul-turned-politician has flip-flopped on the issue over the years. On Wednesday alone, Trump had three different stances on abortion, twice clarifying comments he made earlier in the day that women who undergo abortions, if there were a ban on the procedure, should be punished.

Here's a brief history of Trump's evolving stance on the controversial procedure:

April 1989: Hosts a Pro-Choice Fundraiser

According to The New York Times, Trump was a co-host of a fundraiser at the Plaza Hotel, which he owned, for an abortion rights leader in 1989 but failed to attend. Organizers of the event told the paper that Trump and his relatives had received death threats over the dinner and that was the reason they decided to skip it.

October 24, 1999: Pro-Choice But "Hates It"

During an interview with Tim Russert on "Meet the Press," Trump shared his thoughts on a number of social issues, including abortion.

He declared that he was "very pro-choice," but went on to decry the idea of the procedure.

Donald Trump is interviewed by Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" in 1999.
Meet the Press

"I hate the concept of abortion. I hate it. I hate everything it stands for, I cringe when I listen to people debating the subject, but still I just believe in choice," he said in the televised interview.

This clip has been recirculated frequently during this election season and was central to Sen. Ted Cruz's critique of Trump's "New York values", since Trump repeatedly said in the 1999 interview that his social stances were shaped by his upbringing in New York.

"It may be a little bit of a New York background," Trump explained in the interview.

May 3, 2011: Made the Switch

When Trump was toying with the idea of running for president in 2011, he told The Times that he was pro-life.

“There are certain things that I don't think can ever be negotiated. Let me put it this way: I am pro life, and pro-life people will find out that I will be very loyal to them, just as I am loyal to other people. I would be appointing judges that feel the way I feel,” he told the paper in May 2011.

August 6, 2015: Pro-Life

When he finally decided to take the plunge and run for the presidency this upcoming term, Trump explained that he had had a change of heart, coming out strongly as pro-life and giving a specific explanation.

During the first debate, Trump was asked about his comments from 1999 and said that "since then, I’ve very much evolved."

"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," Trump said at the debate.

"I am very, very proud to say that I am pro-life," he added.

Trump has repeated this personal story and reiterated his pro-life stance many times over the course of his campaign.

March 30, 2016: Talk of Punishing Women and Possible Ban

In the span of roughly three hours on Wednesday, Trump had three different stances on abortion.

During a taping of an MSNBC town hall in Wisconsin, Trump was pressed repeatedly by host Chris Matthews if he thinks there should be "some form of punishment" if abortion were banned and Trump finally said: "For the woman? ... Yeah."

He went on to say that the punishment in question would "have to be determined."

After a clip of that interview was released, Trump's campaign first released the following statement from Trump: "This issue is unclear and should be put back into the states for determination. Like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions, which I have outlined numerous times."

His campaign later released another statement, effectively retracting the most controversial portion of the comments he had made during the MSNBC taping.

The second statement reads: "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 in his subsequent statement.