The GOP presidential front-runner's mad scramble began a little after he told MSNBC's Chris Matthews that abortion, if outlawed, should carry "some form of punishment."
When Matthews asked if that penalty should apply specifically to the woman, Trump replied: "Yes."
But he didn't elaborate on its nature except to say that men should not be held responsible.
was fast, angry and bipartisan.
Dawn Laguens from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund called Trump "flat-out dangerous," while Bernie Sanders ("Shameful") and Hillary Clinton ("Horrific and telling") tweeted their condemnations.
On the GOP side, John Kasich and Ted Cruz, who both favor strict anti-abortion laws, criticized Trump from the right, with the Texas senator accusing him of having damaged the cause, saying the billionaire "demonstrated that he hasn't seriously thought through the issues."
'This issue is unclear'
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks sent in a statement from Trump to reporters: "This issue is unclear and should be put back into the states for determination. Like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions, which I have outlined numerous times."
Criticism, though, continued to come.
'The woman is a victim'
By a little before 5 p.m., Trump released another explanation -- marking an almost complete about-face.
"If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any 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.
"The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb," Trump said. "My position has not changed -- like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions."