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Published: Tuesday, 10/12/2004

Mrs. Edwards gets tough questions at Columbus forum

BY STEVE EDER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Elizabeth Edwards makes a point at a Pittsburgh town hall meeting. Earlier yesterday she stopped in Columbus at a YWCA, where she promised she would answer any question. Elizabeth Edwards makes a point at a Pittsburgh town hall meeting. Earlier yesterday she stopped in Columbus at a YWCA, where she promised she would answer any question.
KEITH SRAKOCIC / AP Enlarge

COLUMBUS - Elizabeth Edwards concluded a two-day swing through Ohio yesterday by telling women in the state's capital city that she isn't "afraid of any question."

During the town hall meeting at the YWCA in Columbus, the wife of John Edwards, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, addressed concerns about abortion rights, terrorism, education, faith-based initiatives, and the economy.

About 200 people, mostly women, showed up for the morning appearance.

When asked if the Democratic presidential ticket would compromise with abortion-rights foes and outlaw public funding for abortion clinics if it meant protecting reproductive rights, Mrs. Edwards responded, "I don't think I can help you."

Mrs. Edwards said such a policy would discriminate against low-income people.

"It is not enough to say you have the right to choose, if you have a dollar in your pocket," she added.

The former lawyer also used the forum to decry President Bush's record on women's issues.

She charged Mr. Bush has failed to narrow the gender-wage gap and has failed women by working against laws that guarantee equal access for boys and girls to school sports.

Bush campaign spokesperson Ali Harden said the President has addressed a number of issues that women care about, including education, health care, and homeland security.

"If you ask around the country, women would disagree with Ms. Edwards' statement," said Ms. Harden, who works on women's outreach for the campaign. "The President has a strong record of achievement on the issues women care about most."

While questions at the town hall meeting focused heavily on women's issues, the hot topics of the election like the war in Iraq, jobs, and health care took center stage.

Mrs. Edwards said the Bush administration has a "narrow view" of its responsibilities in Iraq and the necessity of getting assistance from allies in rebuilding the war-torn nation.

"We shouldn't be saying if you weren't with us on day one, you can't be in with us on the reconstruction," she said.

Responding to concerns about tax increases from a doctor's wife, Mrs. Edwards said directly, "If you earn over $200,000 a year, Senator Kerry will increase your tax rate."

Rosalyn Stith, a retired social worker from Columbus, said she appreciated Mrs. Edwards' direct answers to difficult questions.

"There is an air about her," she said. "She's down to earth and she identifies with the people - with all the people. And she knows her facts."

Contact Steve Eder at:

seder@theblade.com

or 419-724-6728.



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