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Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin used her first out-of-state trip on a partisan agenda since the presidential campaign ended to challenge 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 that organizers said numbered 3,000 at the Vanderburgh County Right to Life banquet Thursday night in Evansville.

Some in the crowd wore white “Palin 2012” T-shirts. Earlier, GOP National Chairman Michael Steele had described her as one of the party’s current standard bearers, though he said it was too early to judge what her standing would be in three years.

Palin said the challenges she went through 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 that her son, whose first birthday will be on Saturday, would be born with abnormalities.

“The moment he was born, I knew that moment my prayers had been answered,” she said. “Trig is 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.

She also said that like Steele’s adopted mother, women who can’t give birth to their own children should have the opportunity to adopt children who might otherwise have been aborted.

She mentioned that her daughter, Bristol, became pregnant as an unmarried teen and has since given birth to a son.

Palin also took President Barack 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. Obama said such questions were above his pay grade.

She 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 current GOP standard bearers that also includes fellow governors Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Mark Sanford of South Carolina.

“I don’t know about 2012. I think she is a standard bearer right now. She and Mitt Romney and Governor Pawlenty, Governor Sanford, Rudy Giuliani, Eric Cantor, 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 of Indiana and Cantor of Virginia are congressmen. Many in the party also look to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as a presidential favorite in 2012.

Palin hasn’t ruled out a presidential run in 2012.

Palin was cheered wildly by supporters as she entered the banquet hall with her husband, Todd. She stopped to sign autographs before taking her seat at a table.

Palin and her husband also were expected to attend a breakfast this morning with S.M.I.L.E., a nonprofit support organization for people with family members who have Down syndrome.