Chris Matthews gave generally respectful treatment to pro-life activist Abby Johnson, who appeared on last night’s Hardball in the context of discussing the March for Life. But Matthews challenged Johnson on the position—generally adopted by the pro-life movement—that the only person who should be punished is the doctor performing the abortion, and not the woman who chose to have one.

Said Matthews: “If abortion’s a murder and the person who goes to an abortion clinic is given no sanctions, no punishment whatever, there’s something that doesn’t square there . . . if you believe it’s murder, you go after the person who went to the clinic to have the abortion. Or else you treat her like a child, a vulnerable person who’s not really a grownup . . . Going after the doctor is a cute way of avoiding the question. If it’s murder, act on it. If it’s not, stop saying it.”

Johnson, who worked at a Planned Parenthood clinic but resigned after watching an abortion on ultrasound and became a pro-life activist, indicated that she prefers to call abortion the killing of a human life rather than murder, but in any case opposes punishment for the woman.

Earlier in the segment, Matthews rolled a clip of his interview of Donald Trump from last year in which the then-candidate said there had to be “some form of punishment” for women who have an abortion. Trump subsequently changed his position, calling the women victims, and saying only the doctor should be punished.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Since campaigning for president, Donald Trump has taken a much harder stance on abortion. It’s changed a bit. But here’s what he told me in March, of last year.

MATTHEWS: Do you believe in punishment for abortion: yes or no, as a principle?

DONALD TRUMP: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.

MATTHEWS: For the woman?

TRUMP: Yeah: there has to be some form.

. . .

MATTHEWS: Here’s my problem with your position. And I respect your values completely. If abortion’s a murder and the person who goes to an abortion clinic is given no sanction, no punishment whatever, there’s something that doesn’t square there. Either you believe it’s murder or you don’t. And if you believe it’s murder you go after the person who went to the clinic to have the abortion. Or else you treat her like a child, a vulnerable person who’s not really a grownup, and you get it both ways. Women have maturity, they’ve got the right to make a judgment, and when they make a judgment, they find doctor to give them the procedure. Going after doctor is a cute way of avoiding the question. If it’s murder, act on it. If it’s not, stop saying it. Stop saying: it’s murder if you’re not going to act on it as if it is murder. That’s my problem with it. It’s called a conflict of truth.

ABBY JOHNSON: I actually don’t say it’s murder. I say that it’s killing

MATTHEWS: A lot of your crowd do. Killing. Okay, killing. Killing people, you’re saying.

JOHNSON: Killing a human being.

MATTHEWS: And if it’s killing, what is it? Should it be outlawed?

JOHNSON: It depends.

MATTHEWS: Should the person be punished for doing it?

JOHNSON: It depends. Murder is technically a legal term.

MATTHEWS: Should the person who has an abortion be punished? I ask the same question —

JOHNSON: I do not. I do not believe they should be punished.

MATTHEWS: But it is murder.

JOHNSON: If it’s legally considered murder then it would be murder.

MATTHEWS: But it shouldn’t be punished?

JOHNSON: It depends on the situation.

MATTHEWS: You just said it should be, it shouldn’t be.

JOHNSON: I think that a woman should be not be punished.

MATTHEWS: Even though it’s murder?

JOHNSON: Correct.

MATTHEWS: Strange point of view here. I don’t understand the metaphysics. I just don’t understand. Anyway, Abby Johnson, you have the total right to hold that position even though it’s in total conflict.