Donald Trump has appeared to reverse his highly controversial position on abortion for a second time, arguing federal laws shouldn’t be changed to ban the procedure.
“The laws are set now on abortion and that’s the way they’re going to remain until they’re changed,” said Mr Trump in a US television interview on Friday. “And I think we have to leave it that way.”
Speaking on John Dickerson’s CBS talk show "Face the Nation", the US presidential candidate attempted to clarify his call earlier this week for women who have abortions to be “punished”.
He said: “A question was asked to me. And it was asked in a very hypothetical. And it was said, ‘Illegal, illegal.’ ”
When the Republican frontrunner was asked if he thought abortion is a form of murder, Mr Trump said: “I don’t disagree”.
But after these latest comments became public, Mr Trump’s campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks appeared to alter the New York billionaire’s remarks.
Ms Hicks said he was giving "an accurate account of the law as it is today and made clear it must stay that way now - until he is president.
“Then he will change the law through his judicial appointments and allow the states to protect the unborn. There is nothing new or different here."
Mr Trump's campaign has been in the midst of crisis since Wednesday, after he told MSNBC's Chris Matthews that women who undergo abortions should face "some form of punishment" if the procedure were outlawed. Mr Trump backtracked from his position after widespread condemnation, including from that of Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who is aiming to become the first female US president in history.
The mixed messages are further signs that Mr Trump's campaign has lost momentum recently, despite maintaining a healthy lead over his Republican nominee contenders.
Abortion has been legal in the US since 1973, following the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision.