Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump found himself embroiled in another controversy Wednesday by saying that the women who opt for abortion should be punished once the United States bans the procedure.
Trump's remarks have evoked widespread criticism from both the sides, Reuters reported.
The debate on the issue of abortion has been going on in the U.S. since a long time, even as the Supreme Court legalised the procedure in 1973, when the Supreme Court said that a woman's constitutional right to privacy entitled her to end an unwanted pregnancy.
The conservatives have tried to lessen the impact of the Supreme Court's decision by supporting the new anti-abortion laws in the states.
Donald Trump, however, retracted from his remarks after MSNBC broadcast a clip of an interview with Trump.
He later said the doctors who perform the abortions should be held responsible.
"If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any other 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," Trump said in a statement.
He further said the victim is a woman in this case as is the life in her womb.
Trump jumped in the abortion debate that has been a long political tug-of-war in the U.S. by wooing the Republican voters as a Washington outsider who opposes abortion.
The New York-based real estate tycoon, who earlier supported the abortion issue, has come under the fire from conservatives to prove he is among them. On the other hand, Trump's allegedly offensive comments about women have made him unpopular.
A CNN poll showed that 73 percent of the registered female voters in the U.S. had "an unfavourable view of Trump."
Meanwhile, Trump's rivals have wasted no time in hitting back at him.
"Of course, women shouldn't be punished," rival Republican candidate John Kasich was quoted as saying by Reuters. He further said he was opposed to abortion except in specific cases such as rape.
Ted Cruz, another Republican presidential candidate, said, "What's far too often neglected is that being pro-life is not simply about the unborn child, it's also about the mother."
"What Donald Trump said was outrageous and dangerous. I'm constantly taken aback at the kinds of things that he advocates for," Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton told MSNBC, according to Reuters.
"Once again, he has showed us who he is," Clinton said.