EVANSVILLE, Ind. -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, speaking at an anti-abortion group's dinner, criticized President Barack Obama for supporting abortion rights and challenged the idea that unplanned pregnancies are a nuisance that can be solved by abortion.
Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, spoke to an overflow crowd organizers said numbered 3,000 at the Vanderburgh County Right to Life banquet Thursday night.
Some in the crowd wore white "Palin 2012" T-shirts. Earlier, GOP National Chairman Michael Steele described her as one of the party's standard bearers, though he said it was too early to judge what her standing would be in three years.
Palin said the challenges she faced during her pregnancy with her son Trig, who was born with Down syndrome, gave her an opportunity to live out her anti-abortion beliefs. She said she prayed often during her pregnancy, especially after tests revealed her son would be born with the condition.
"I had to ask myself, 'Was I going to walk the walk or was I just going to talk the talk?'" she recalled. "It is easy to think maybe of trying to change the circumstances."
But she called her son a "miracle."
"He is the best thing that ever happened to me and I want other women to have that opportunity."
She challenged the notion that children must be born perfect and that unplanned pregnancies are inconvenient and can be ended by abortion. "I know for sure my son is perfect just as he is, made in the image of God," she said.
She asked the crowd to keep working for the "culture of life" in America.
"Life is ordained, life is precious," she said.
Palin said women who can't give birth should have the opportunity to adopt children who might otherwise be aborted. She mentioned that her own daughter Bristol became pregnant as an unmarried teen and has since given birth to a son.
Palin also took Obama to task for his support of abortion rights and embryonic stem-cell research.
She said deciding when babies get human rights isn't above her pay grade - a reference to Obama's response to a question from the Rev. Rick Warren last year. The Democrat said such questions were above his pay grade.
Palin received at least two standing ovations. After the speech, she addressed an overflow crowd in another room and thanked them for their support.
During a news conference earlier, Steele said Palin is among a crowd of GOP standard bearers that includes fellow governors Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Mark Sanford of South Carolina.
He also cited other prominent party figures, including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, ex-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and two congressmen, Eric Cantor and Mike Pence.
"We have a significant number of men and women in our party who are in a very good position right now to carry forward the standard of the GOP," Steele said.
Pence represents Indiana and Cantor is from Virginia. Many Republicans also look to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as a presidential favorite in 2012.
Palin hasn't ruled out a White House bid. Steele said it was too early to gauge what her standing would be in 2012.
Palin was cheered wildly as she entered the banquet hall with her husband, Todd. She stopped to sign autographs before taking her seat.
Palin, her husband and Trig also had been expected to attend a breakfast Friday morning with S.M.I.L.E., a nonprofit support organization for people with family members who have Down syndrome. Trig turns 1 on Saturday.
But Palin said Trig, who had the sniffles, stayed home with his grandmother.
Some Alaska lawmakers criticized Palin's decision to make the trip as the state Legislature approaches its Sunday deadline.