If you want to know just how uncomfortable they were talking about that question, take a look at the lengths to which Rep. Tim Huelskamp went to dodge it. Then along came Donald Trump with his "deport 'em all" position and all of the 2016 candidates had to take it on. For example, here is Ted Cruz being asked the question directly because of Trump's proposal.
Last week in an interview with Chris Matthews, Donald Trump unearthed another dirty little secret the GOP has been trying to keep under wraps for a long time. We all know that they want to make abortion illegal and that the case they make is that it kills an unborn child. If, as they believe, it is such a serious crime, who gets punished for it if it is banned? That is the very real outcome of their policy that they wanted to avoid.
Along comes Donald Trump with the response initially to Chris Matthews that women should be punished and then a later correction saying that it should be the doctor who performs the abortion. That blew the lid off the GOP's cover. And this weekend, John Kasich was put on the spot (very uncomfortably) about it.
Obviously Kasich didn't want to answer the question. We're left to wonder what kind of process governors like him would work out with state legislatures on this one if Roe v Wade was ever overturned. That has traditionally been the Republican response to questions like this...keep people in the dark about the consequences of their position because it leads to places that most people don't want to go. It's what David Roberts called "post-truth politics."
One way to understand what is happening with these issues is to see it as the result of Donald Trump's rejection of political correctness. He often uses that word to describe the position of Democrats. But a post-truth party is filled with questions they don't want to talk about. Trump is doing a good job of exposing all of them.
But lest we get tempted to give Trump credit for that, it is important to keep in mind that on most of these issues, he embraces the retrograde policies. The difference is that he just comes right out and says so. That is an improvement in honesty but not so much when it comes to decency.