ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) -- Key evangelical leaders rallied to Sarah Palin's support Monday amid news that her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, was having a child.
Sarah Palin confirmed Monday that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant.
"Before, they were excited about her, with the Down syndrome baby," conservative, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist said. "But now with this, they are over the moon. It reinforces the fact that this family lives its pro-life values."
Palin and John McCain oppose abortion and have supported promoting abstinence in schools, which would seem to make Bristol Palin's pregnancy an inconveniently timed development.
But she is keeping the child, a fact that could make the Alaska governor -- whose candidacy has been enthusiastically embraced by evangelicals who regard her as one of their own -- even more popular among that key GOP voting bloc. Watch more on Palin's announcement »
"Fortunately, Bristol is following her mother and father's example of choosing life in the midst of a difficult situation," Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said. "We are committed to praying for Bristol and her husband-to-be and the entire Palin family as they walk through a very private matter in the eyes of the public."
Evangelical leader Richard Land also backed Palin completely.
"This is the pro-life choice. The fact that people will criticize her for this shows the astounding extent to which the secular critics of the pro-life movement just don't get it," Land said in a statement.
"Those who criticize the Palin family don't understand that we don't see babies as a punishment but as a blessing. Barack Obama said that if one of his daughters made a mistake and got pregnant out of wedlock, he wouldn't want her to be punished with a child. Pro-lifers don't see a child as punishment."
The immediate support of these major figures, who offered universal praise for the Palins' actions after learning their daughter was pregnant, provides the filter through which conservative Christian voters will process the development. iReport.com: Were you married at a young age?
Most important for Palin, an elder statesman of the movement, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, released a statement lauding the Palins for acting in keeping with the group's policies and practices:
"We have always encouraged the parents to love and support their children and always advised the girls to see their pregnancies through, even though there will of course be challenges along the way. That is what the Palins are doing, and they should be commended once again for not just talking about their pro-life and pro-family values, but living them out even in the midst of trying circumstances.
"Being a Christian does not mean you're perfect. Nor does it mean your children are perfect. But it does mean there is forgiveness and restoration when we confess our imperfections to the Lord. I've been the beneficiary of that forgiveness and restoration in my own life countless times, as I'm sure the Palins have," Dobson said.
Some evangelicals gathered in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, for the Republican convention speculated that the news would pose more of a problem for Democrats than for the GOP ticket.
Speculation by some on blogs that Palin's son Trig was actually Bristol's child had led to outrage among conservatives.
Any comment by Democrats that is viewed as remotely critical could make both Sarah and Bristol Palin appear to be sympathetic victims of a political vendetta.
By Monday afternoon, evangelical leaders were circling the wagons.
"The media are already trying to spin this as evidence Gov. Palin is a 'hypocrite,' but all it really means is that she and her family are human," Dobson said. "They are in my prayers and those of millions of Americans."
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