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April 1, 2016 9:43 AM EDT

Donald Trump said Wednesday he thinks women in this country should be “punished” if they get an abortion. And then he recanted—adopting the same rhetoric of feigned compassion that anti-choice groups have been using to whitewash their true agenda for years.

Republicans can try to spin this all they want, but the inescapable truth is that punishing women is what the GOP assault on our reproductive rights has always been about.

The truth is that, by the time a woman has had to drive hundreds of miles or travel to another state to have an abortion, she’s already been punished for having one.

Every woman who’s been forced to wait 24 hours to have an abortion—or who’s had to face violent, violating and intimidating threats before she gets one—has also been punished for having one.

As has every woman who just didn’t have the money to pay for an abortion or to get to the nearest clinic or to find a place to stay or to cover the cost of childcare while she was there.

And all the women who’ve been forced to undergo invasive medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds or to view sonogram photos against their will or who’ve turned to what they think is an abortion clinic to ask for help, only to be traumatized and coerced with inaccurate medical information and coercive propaganda? They’re being punished, too—every day and all across the country.

Read more: This Campaign Encourages Women to Withhold Sex From Trump Supporters

The increasingly extreme—and increasingly punitive—policies Republicans have been pushing for decades now to restrict women’s access to abortion aren’t about “scientific evidence.” They never have been.

They’re also not about protecting patients’ “safety” or making sure women have the “right” information to make a medical decision or taking on some kind of illegal industry—and they sure as hell aren’t about having “respect” for women.

For anti-choice conservatives, punishing women with policies that take away our rights is—and always has been—the point.

Wednesday exposed an ugly truth about what the GOP’s anti-choice agenda is really about—and it’s one women have always known was there.

For the GOP, that truth is the monster behind the curtain. And now the monster has pulled the curtain back.

Stephanie Schriock is the President of EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics.

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