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Clinton jabs Sanders over Trump abortion controversy

PURCHASE, N.Y. -- Hillary Clinton turned Donald Trump's comments about abortion against her opponent, Bernie Sanders, on Thursday, criticizing him for characterizing Trump's words a "distraction."

In an interview on Wednesday, Trump suggested that women should be "punished" for undergoing illegal abortions. Trump later said that doctors who perform abortions, if it is against federal or state law, should bear responsibility.

"Last night, Senator Sanders agreed that Donald Trump's comments were shameful," Clinton said, speaking to a crowd of hundreds gathered on campus at State University of New York at Purchase, "but then he said they were a distraction from, and I quote, a 'serious discussion about the serious issues facing America.'"

She continued: "To me, this is a serious issue and it is a very serious discussion."

Sanders, asked to respond to Trump's comments on Wednesday night, said "to punish a woman for having an abortion is beyond comprehension." He did not directly call what Trump said a "distraction," but suggested that the media amplifies the Republican front-runners' "every stupid remark" without covering his "overall positions."

"Any stupid, absurd remark made by Donald Trump becomes the story of the week," he said. "Maybe, just maybe, we might want to have a serious discussion about the serious issues facing America."

Sanders' campaign quickly issued a response what Clinton said in Purchase.

"Donald Trump's statement about punishing women who have abortions is an outrage," said his spokesperson, Michael Briggs, in a statement. "It is unbelievable that a candidate for president would make such an absurd statement. Sen. Sanders has a 100 percent lifetime voting record defending a woman's right to choose and will do all that he can to protect and expand that right if elected president."

Clinton called Trump's comments "outrageous" and "dangerous" on Wednesday night, and has made Trump part of her focus as she campaigns in New York and Wisconsin ahead of the primaries there. But here on Thursday, Clinton focused more of her attention on Sanders. In particular, she grew animated when a group of protesters, who she identified as "Bernie people," interrupted her.

"If she wins, we lose," they yelled.

"What I regret is they don't want to listen to anybody else," she responded, as the protestors left the room. "They don't want to hear the contrast between my experience, my plans, my vision, what I know I can get done and what my opponent is promising."

In particular, she said that voters should "read the fine print" when it comes to Sanders' plan to provide free tuition at public colleges and universities. Clinton often says on the campaign trail that the plan isn't workable because it relies too heavily on state support.

"It doesn't add up," she said.

She added: "When this primary process is over, we've got to unite and make sure we've got a Democrat in the White House."