Everyone Is Freaking out Over Donald Trump's Latest Abortion Comments

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said that women who undergo abortions should face "some form of punishment," if the procedure were banned in the United States.

During the taping of an MSNBC town hall on Wednesday, the front-runner was asked about his anti-abortion position, which has shifted over the years.

"Should abortion be punished," MSNBC host Chris Matthews asked the candidate, referring to a hypothetical scenario in which abortion was made illegal. "This is not something you can dodge." Although abortion is legal in the U.S., some states have moved to restrict access to the procedure.

Trump gave a meandering answer about the mood within the Republican Party, saying that conservative GOP members would call for a ban.

Pressed on his own position, the business mogul said it was a "very serious problem," and posed rhetorical questions about sending women to jail and forcing abortion-seekers to chose dangerous back-alley alternatives, before concluding:

"There has to be some form of punishment."

After the comments from the yet-to-be-aired town hall made the rounds, the candidate released a statement extending and expanding his stance on abortion. The statement marked a reversal from his comments earlier in the day:

Although he did not detail what form the punishment might take, Trump's answer will likely set off a firestorm in abortion-rights circles. The candidate's anti-abortion comments were a marked departure from earlier stances. In a 1999 appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," Trump said that while he was uncomfortable with the "concept of abortion," he was "very pro-choice."

Trump says he has evolved on abortion (just like Ronald Reagan), but the candidate has until now struck a relatively low-key tone on the issue compared to his contenders, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, both of whom are proponents of outlawing the procedure.

Shortly after news of the quote broke — the interview has yet to officially air — responses from high profile figures began rolling in.

Democratic contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both criticized the candidate's stance.

Kasich commented in an interview, and a Cruz rapid response director tweeted out a response:

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, said the comments reflected political motivations to control women.

At a February GOP debate, Trump said that even though he supported cutting off federal funding to Planned Parenthood, the organization helped "millions of millions of women," who use the service for a range of healthcare issues.

The abortion debate has been a contentious subject in the 2016 primaries, as issues surrounding women's rights and sexual health have been in the spotlight.

In a victory for abortion activists on Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration eased requirements for taking drugs that induce abortion, which will likely expand women's access to the procedure, the New York Times reported.