Bob Nonini
Bob Nonini / (Facebook)

A candidate for lieutenant governor in Idaho backtracked Tuesday on his statement that women who get an abortion should face the death penalty if the procedure is ever criminalized in the state.

Bob Nonini, a three-term state senator from Coeur d’Alene, first came under fire during a Monday candidate forum in Moscow, Idaho, hosted by the conservative Christian podcast CrossPolitic.

“There should be no abortion and anyone who has an abortion should pay,” Nonini said and reportedly nodded in support of the death penalty as a means of punishing women.

But just hours later, the Republican said the punishment should be focused on the person performing the abortion rather than the woman.

“Let me be clear – I have always been a pro-life supporter. That means classifying abortion as murder. Since abortion is murder, I believe we should consider penalties for individuals involved in these procedures,” Nonini said in a statement.

“However, it is my understanding that in the history of the United States, long before [Roe v. Wade] was foisted upon this country; no woman has ever been prosecuted for undergoing abortion. That is for practical reasons, as well as for reasons of compassion,” he continued.

“Prosecutions have always been focused on the abortionist. There is no way a woman would go to jail let alone face the death penalty. The statute alone, the threat of prosecution, would dramatically reduce abortion. That is my goal.”

“Prosecutions have always been focused on the abortionist. There is no way a woman would go to jail let alone face the death penalty.”

Bob Nonini said.

This is not the first time the candidate has to apologize and clarify what he meant. In January, Nonini apologized to seven fellow legislators for making an inappropriate comment during an anti-sexual harassment training.

“I made a comment that might have offended some people and so I apologized to those sitting around me,” he said in a statement. The exact comment was not revealed.

The other Republican candidates for lieutenant governor – Idaho Falls businesswoman Janice McGeachin and former Idaho Republican Party Chairman Steve Yates – did not go as far as Nonini on abortion during the Monday’s forum.

“No, I cannot support a woman facing the death penalty for having an abortion,” said McGeachin. “What we should do is prevent that.”

Yates, meanwhile, said that criminalizing abortion would not necessarily result in fewer women getting the procedure.

“In terms of criminalizing things, I have no problem with that except that doesn’t always solve the problem,” Yates said.

Abortion in deep-red Idaho is a contentious issue, with many Republican lawmakers and advocates trying to restrict the access to the procedure.

Last year, Abolish Abortion Idaho started a ballot initiative seeking to charge abortion providers and women with first-degree murder, though it remains unclear if the initiative will have enough signatures to appear on the ballot in November.