Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told an antiabortion audience in Indiana on Thursday night that, "for a fleeting moment," she considered having an abortion after learning that her son Trig would have Down syndrome.
The experience, she added, "now lets me understand a woman's, a girl's, temptation to maybe make it all go away."
Ultimately, Palin said, she decided she had to "walk the walk" concerning her long-standing anti-abortion views. She avoided using the word "abortion" in her speech, preferring the phrase "change the circumstances."
"I had just enough faith to know that my trying to change the circumstances wasn't any answer," said Palin, the featured speaker before 3,000 people at a banquet in Evansville.
As the Republican Party's vice presidential candidate last year, Palin said little about her son's condition or the circumstances surrounding his birth. Her reticence prompted wild, Internet-fueled allegations about Trig's parentage, rumors that still stung the governor two months after the election when she called the media's reporting on her family "very scary."
She also refused to disclose her health records, breaking an unwritten rule of presidential politics.
The night before voters headed to the polls, Palin's campaign released a letter from her family physician that provided the most information to date about Trig's diagnosis. Cathy Baldwin-Johnson wrote that Palin learned in the second trimester that he had Down syndrome.
Palin revealed more Thursday night, saying she was traveling when she got the result of the amniocentesis that revealed the chromosomal abnormality.
"There, just for a fleeting moment, I thought, I knew, 'Nobody knows me here. Nobody would ever know.' "
Palin has long been a staunch supporter of abortion restrictions, and she pointed to her own "moment of doubt" to illustrate her support for carrying pregnancies to term, regardless of the circumstances.
She prayed during her pregnancy for the strength and compassion to love a baby with an extra chromosome, she said at the dinner hosted by Vanderburgh County Right to Life, her first major public appearance this year. "The moment he was born, I knew for sure that my prayer was answered."
Palin's frankness was greeted warmly by attendees, and the executive director of the National Right to Life Committee said Friday that it could bind her even more tightly to those who oppose abortion.
"I think every one of us, every human being, has had it go through their mind, the possibility of an act they know is wrong - and then rejected," David O'Steen said.
Palin's speech underscores, he said, "that she is very forthright, very honest. It also shows she's a person who, when tried and tempted, will make the right decisions."
Kim Lehman of Iowa Right to Life, an influential player in the state's first-in-the-nation Republican caucuses, said she was impressed by Palin's remarks. "She was tested, tried and chose life. It goes to show her character."
Supporters of abortion rights said every woman deserves the chance to make her own choice. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say Governor Palin sounds remarkably pro-choice," said Elizabeth Shipp, political director at NARAL Pro-Choice America.