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Inside Politics

Apology demanded from Karen Hughes

• Abortion rights protest packs National Mall
Karen P. Hughes

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Leaders of last Sunday's March for Women's Lives held a news conference on Capitol Hill Thursday to repeat their demand for an apology from Bush campaign adviser Karen Hughes for her remarks about abortion rights.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, said that "by implying that pro-choice Americans have the same values as terrorists, Hughes insulted millions of American men and women, who believe women should make their own choices about their reproductive health."

"We are here to call upon Ms. Hughes to apologize. And we hope that President Bush will disassociate himself from these unfortunate remarks," she added.

Last Sunday, CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked Hughes how big the issue of abortion would be in this year's presidential election. (Transcript)

"I think after September 11th the American people are valuing life more and realizing that we need policies to value the dignity and worth of every life. And President Bush has worked to say, let's be reasonable, let's work to value life, let's try to reduce the number of abortions, let's increase adoptions," she said.

"The fundamental difference between us and the terror network we fight is that we value every life. It's the founding conviction of our country, that we're endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, the right to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness," Hughes said.

"Unfortunately our enemies in the terror network, as we're seeing repeatedly in the headlines these days, don't value any life, not even the innocent and not even their own," she added.

CNN left messages with the Bush/Cheney campaign asking for a response from Hughes.

In response to earlier demands for an apology, Hughes is quoted in The Washington Post's Wednesday edition that criticism of her remarks was a "gross distortion."

Responding to those who said she was equating abortion rights activists with terror networks, Hughes told the Post, "That is a gross distortion and I would never make such a comparison."

A call for Hughes to resign was made Thursday by Martha Burk, head of the National Council of Women's Organizations, who led a fight to get women golfers in the Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia.

"She has called your mothers, your aunts, your grandmothers, your daughters, your sons and husbands terrorists. This has to stop. It is the worst kind of McCarthyism. You cannot speak out in this country any more without being called a traitor. The highest form of patriotism is to speak out against policies that do not benefit the citizens of your country," Burk said. "This must stop. She owes an apology, if not a resignation."

Maloney also said it was "unfortunate that Karen Hughes' response to this criticism, calling it 'a gross distortion' shows that she still doesn't get it. The only gross distortion here is mentioning law-abiding, patriotic, pro-choice Americans in the same sentence as terrorists."

Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, one of the leaders of Sunday's march, said, "We cannot have a time when those of us who are protesting current policies are going to be compared to terrorists or their values. We have to stand up now before we have a period of silencing all meaningful discussion in our country."

Other groups represented at the news conference included Planned Parenthood, NARAL, National Partnership for Women & Families, and National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association.

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