JERUSALEM (AP) – Condoleezza Rice let out a heavy sigh when asked Saturday whether as a single woman with no children she had difficulty appreciating the ramifications of war. It’s a topic that has inflamed the Internet and talk radio in the U.S. since a Democratic senator challenged the secretary of state’s personal stake in the Iraq war.

“No,” Rice answered when asked if her status hinders her understanding of the sacrifices involved. “I also think that being a single woman does not in any way make me incapable of understanding not just those sacrifices but also that nothing of value is ever won without sacrifice.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., told Rice during a testy Senate hearing on Thursday that without an immediate family Rice will pay no personal price for the Bush administration policy in Iraq.

Rice has said she was at first perplexed by the exchange, and later told Fox News, “Gee, I thought single women had come further than that.”

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh accused Boxer of hitting “below the ovaries.”

Standing with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Rice jokingly noted that as a woman with children, Livni is qualified to “make the decisions.”

Livni leapt to Rice’s defense, saying Rice’s strong emotions about the Iraq war toll are clear during their private conversations.

Rice, 52, has never married. She is an only child and her parents are dead.

Boxer’s comment came during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in which Rice was questioned about President Bush’s new war plans.

“Who pays the price?” Boxer asked Rice. “I’m not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young. You’re not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with immediate family.

“So who pays the price? The American military and their families.”

Boxer, D-Calif., defended herself in a statement Friday.

“I spoke the truth at the committee hearing, which is that neither Secretary Rice nor I have family members that will pay the price for this escalation,” she said. “My point was to focus attention on our military families who continue to sacrifice because this administration has not developed a political solution to the situation in Iraq.”