Donald Trump U-turn after saying women who have abortions should be punished
Donald Trump has done a U-turn on his controversial suggestion that women should be punished for seeking abortions if they are ever banned.
The Republican presidential candidate said later that abortion providers - not women - should be the ones punished if the law in the US is changed.
He 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 tycoon added: "The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb."
The billionaire businessman argued in two statements released by his campaign: "My position has not changed. Like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions."
Mr Trump had said during a town hall interview earlier on Wednesday that women who get abortions should receive "some form of punishment" if there is a ban.
The subject remains highly controversial decades after the Supreme Court legalised abortion.
Mr Trump originally said "there has to be some form of punishment" and suggested that women could continue to receive abortions, but at "illegal places".
P ressed on what should happen to women who had abortions, he added: "I haven't determined what the punishment should be."
Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton quickly responded, saying: "Just when you thought it couldn't get worse. Horrific and telling."
Mr Trump has often said he is opposed to abortions except in the case of three exceptions - rape, incest and when the life of the mother is at risk.
He used to describe himself as in favour of abortion rights, but says his stance has evolved over the years.
Even before his comments, recent polls have put his negative ratings nearing or even eclipsing 70% among women.
The New York billionaire arrived in Wisconsin fending off another controversy. His campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was charged with assault in Florida on Tuesday over an altercation with a female reporter earlier this month.
Wisconsin's April 5 primary looks pivotal in the Republican race.
If Texas senator Ted Cruz wins, it would narrow Mr Trump's already tight path to the nomination and raise the prospect of a contested party convention. Delegates there might turn to other candidates if the billionaire fails to win on the first ballot.
Mr Trump heads into Wisconsin with 739 delegates to Mr Cruz's 465. Ohio governor John Kasich lags behind with 143. Wisconsin has 42 Republican delegates, with 18 going to the statewide winner and 24 divided among the winners in each of the state's eight congressional districts
Mr Trump needs 1,237 delegates by the end of the primary season to capture the nomination and avoid a contested convention.
All three Republican candidates now say they are not committing to supporting whomever the party chooses as its nominee for the November election.
Mr Trump on Tuesday said he was rescinding his promise because "I have been treated very unfairly" and he listed the party establishment among those he believes have wronged him.
Mr Cruz said if Mr Trump were the nominee, that would hand the election to Mrs Clinton.
Based on primaries and caucuses to date, Mrs Clinton has 1,243 delegates to rival Bernie Sanders' 975.
Including superdelegates, party leaders who are free to support any candidate, she has 1,712 delegates to Mr Sanders' 1,004, leaving her short of the 2,383 it takes to win the nomination.