Fact Check: Posts Claim Trump Said Doctors Should Be Punished for Performing Abortions. Here Are the Facts

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons
Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons


Former U.S. President Donald Trump said in April 2024 that doctors who perform abortions should be punished.


On April 10, 2024, former U.S. President Donald Trump responded to a reporter's question about whether doctors who provide abortions should be punished. He made his comments after the Arizona Supreme Court revived an 1864 law that banned almost all abortions in the state. The court opinion suggested but did not explicitly state that doctors providing abortions could be prosecuted under this law.

A number of posts on X claimed Trump called for doctors to be punished and thrown in jail for providing abortions. Some even stated that he wanted to be allowed to "personally" throw doctors in jail for carrying out abortions.

(X user @BidensWins)

Other users, including Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom, claimed that Trump was saying that "states should be allowed to throw doctors in prison for performing abortions."

In reality, Trump equivocated on the issue. In response to the question, he said the matter should be left up to the states  (leaving open the possibility that a state could punish a doctor for carrying out an abortion).

According to video footage published by The Washington Post, the reporter asked, "Do you think a doctor should be punished [if they] perform abortions?"

Trump responded: "I'd let that be to the states. You know, everything we're doing now is states and states' rights. And what we wanted to do is get it back to the states, because for 53 years it's been a fight. And now the states are handling it. And some have handled it very well, and the others will end up handling it very well. And those are the things that states are going to make a determination about."

The exchange can be found here:

The Washington Post noted that the GOP released a 2022 memo that explicitly stated, "Republicans DO NOT want to throw doctors and women in jail" as well as "Mothers should be held harmless under the law." The memo was presented as a Republican attempt to counter what the party called Democrats' "lies" about their abortion positions. However, numerous GOP-sponsored bills from that time did threaten doctors with jail.

The Post also noted that Trump was not asked specifically about putting doctors "in prison" (as claimed in some social media posts), even though the Arizona law threatens that punishment. He was asked about punishment more broadly, though the context was clearly about Arizona.

In March and April 2024, Trump was punting on questions related to specific abortion laws, and focused on states' rights as a way to avoid taking a firm position pro or con, according to The Post. However, we have reported how he had frequently taken credit for overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that guaranteed federal abortion protections for all women.

Trump's stance on abortion has shifted considerably over the years. He commented on Arizona's abortion ban on April 10, 2024, saying he felt it went too far, without getting into specifics, saying it would be "straightened out." He added, "It is all about states' rights." Trump also said he would not sign a nationwide abortion ban if he were elected to the White House, reversing his position as a 2016 candidate and during his first term in office when he had supported a federal abortion ban. In 2016, he also said there "has to be some form of punishment" for women who were seeking abortion.


Blake, Aaron. "Analysis | The GOP and Where It's Headed on Criminalizing Abortion." Washington Post, 11 May 2022. www.washingtonpost.com, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/05/11/republicans-criminalize-abortion/. Accessed 11 Apr. 2024.

Blake, Aaron. "Analysis | Trump's Telling Comment on Punishing Doctors Who Provide Abortions." Washington Post, 10 Apr. 2024. www.washingtonpost.com, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/04/10/trumps-telling-comment-punishing-doctors-who-provide-abortions/. Accessed 11 Apr. 2024.

Dale, Daniel and Kate Sullivan, Kristen Holmes, Steve Contorno. "Trump Says Abortion Legislation Should Be Left to States | CNN Politics." CNN, 8 Apr. 2024, https://www.cnn.com/2024/04/08/politics/donald-trump-abortion-2024/index.html. Accessed 11 Apr. 2024.

Ibrahim, Nur. "Trump Took Credit for Overturning Roe v. Wade?" Snopes, 9 Apr. 2024, https://www.snopes.com//fact-check/trump-overturning-roe-v-wade/. Accessed 11 Apr. 2024.

Sullivan, Kate and Steve Contorno. "Trump Says He Wouldn't Sign Federal Abortion Ban | CNN Politics." CNN, 10 Apr. 2024, https://www.cnn.com/2024/04/10/politics/trump-says-he-wouldnt-sign-federal-abortion-ban/index.html. Accessed 11 Apr. 2024.

"Trump Says States Should Determine Whether to Punish Doctors." Washington Post, April 10, 2024. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6Wgc1p5rOU. Accessed 11 Apr. 2024.

"What to Know about Abortion in Arizona under the Near-Total 1864 Ban." AP News, 10 Apr. 2024, https://apnews.com/article/arizona-abortion-ban-what-to-know-797a4bbbc738497fe2284d6870c5be24. Accessed 11 Apr. 2024.