Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump walked back his comments on abortion, which did not fall in line with the GOP. (Associated Press) / The Washington Times

Donald Trump threatened Wednesday to impose criminal punishment against women who seek abortions in violation of the law — then recanted just hours later, as the GOP presidential front-runner continues to try to calibrate his stances with his new political party.

His vow to penalize women who terminate their pregnancies in the event abortion became illegal goes against pro-life orthodoxy, which says the doctors, not the women, are the criminals in cases of illegal abortions.

It marked the second time in as many days that Mr. Trump strayed from core Republican principles, after he said Tuesday that education and health care are two of the most important functions of the federal government.The latest hiccups come as reporters, spurred by a very public debate among themselves over coverage of the 2016 presidential election, have pressed harder for answers from Mr. Trump and his fellow Republicans candidates, Sen. Ted Cruz of Florida and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

And as the GOP race has turned nastier, all three candidates this week backed away from their pledge to support the person who emerges in July as the party’s presidential nominee.

GOP strategists said they expect the party to overcome those divisions as the general election draws near, but were worried about the message sent by all three candidates going back on their word.

Mr. Trump’s chances to be the unifying candidate, though, may have been harmed with his stumbles this week, which came as he did extensive interviews in town hall-style settings with MSNBC on Wednesday, and CNN on Tuesday.