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A still from Obvious Child (2014)

Why is abortion still such a big issue?

Donald Trump has said that women should be ‘punished’ for having abortions – so why aren’t we taking these worrying views more seriously?

Donald Trump is funny, isn’t he? With his moist margarine locks, his glowing sepia skin, and his absolutely LOLz racism. He’s like a really horrible cartoon! Someone we should send big boxes of dicks to, and draw naked portraits of. He’s not actually going to be the next leader of one of the most powerful countries in the world. How could he be? He’s a national joke – someone created purely for meme-makers and mad mid-westerners.

Only, tragically, none of that's really the case anymore. The billionaire businessman, who’s currently leading the Republican polls, could genuinely be on the way to the Oval Office. It’s an actual reality now: and one that hit hard during a heated debate with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews last night. After being asked for his stance on abortion – one of the country’s most contentious political topics – Trump stressed that he believed it should be “banned.” He also added, after being pressed by Matthews, that he felt that women should face “some form of punishment” if they ended up having one. See the full horror show below:

Of course, Trump was swiftly forced to backtrack on these comments. Given his terrible track record on women’s rights, it would have been political suicide not to – with even anti-abortion groups stepping up to protest his view. He has since released a statement clarifying that he’s  “pro-life”, with “exceptions” – adding that “the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman.”

However, the assuredness with which he spoke the first time round can’t really be ignored. “Trump can try to walk back his words, but we heard him loud and clear,” declared Hillary Clinton shortly after. “The fact is, Trump isn't that different from every other Republican candidate who would also outlaw abortion. If you make abortion a crime, you make women who seek abortions criminals. You put one in three women at risk.”

Sadly, this is a certified fact. Criminalising abortion is, essentially, declaring war on your country’s women. It’s bypassing their right to choose what they do with their bodies, and it’s placing little-to-no value on their lives. It’s also removing all responsibility from men, and turning sex – and it’s potential outcomes – into a one (wo)man game. So why aren’t we taking these worryingly widespread views more seriously?

It’s worth mentioning that abortion is not a ‘niche’ experience. According to statistics, an estimated 43 per cent of US women will have one by the time they reach 45. As recent tragedies in Texas have proved, criminalising the act would do nothing to diminish this number, and would only lead to the procedure being pushed underground – making it considerably more dangerous for the women involved. Despite this, Republicans continue to cater to campaigners; rolling out cloying cliches about dead foetuses in a bid to be seen as “pro-life”.

It goes deeper than that too. Planned Parenthood – the one institution that could help diminish the need for abortions – is facing an uncertain future. Just last year, the Senate voted to scrap the free sexual healthcare service; with Obama blocking the act before it could be enforced. This GOP-led effort to hack away at women’s freedom (especially economically deprived women) is a terrifying look at where the country could be headed. It shows that religion, and men’s tired ideals, are being put before common sense. How could they not be, when Planned Parenthood saves the government $1.2 billion a year in federal and state Medicaid expenditures?

Although it’s easy to criticise Americans from up here on our high horse, it’s worth remembering that Ireland is only 200 miles away – and the problems there are much worse. Despite decriminalising all drugs, as well as gay marriage, the country still holds some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world; refusing termination in the case of rape, or even if the woman’s life is at risk. “Ireland’s draconian laws have created a climate of fear where counsellors can be fined for telling women how to seek medical care,” explains said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland. “Ireland must amend the constitution and remove the protection of the foetus. This needs to happen urgently as Ireland’s current laws are putting the lives of women and girls at risk every day.”

It’s a worldwide problem, and one that shows very little signs of progression. So next time Trump makes some lols joke about how he’d potentially be up for fucking his daughter, maybe we shouldn’t just roll our eyes. This man (and Ted Cruz too, let’s face it) is a genuine threat to women; whatever their race, class or economic status. It’s time we started taking that seriously.