(CNSNews.com) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, speaking to reporters in Monroe, Mich., on Monday, said the personal life of Sen. John McCain’s running mate is not a political issue.
Pro-life activists, meanwhile, expressed support for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, after she and her husband announced on Monday that their 17-year-old daughter Bristol is five months pregnant, and plans to have the baby and marry the father.
The McCain campaign said it knew beforehand about Bristol’s pregnancy.
Both Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are on record as opposing funding for sex-education and teen-pregnancy prevention programs, the Associated Press reported.
"Let me be a clear as possible," Sen. Obama said on Monday: "I have said before and I will repeat again, I think people's families are off limits and people's children are especially off limits. This shouldn't be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Gov. Palin's performance as governor or her potential performance as a vice president. So I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories.
“You know my mother had me when she was 18 and, you know, how a family deals with issues and, you know, teenage children, that shouldn't be the topic of our politics and I hope that anybody who's supporting me understands that's off limits."
Obama said “there is no evidence at all” that anyone in his campaign was involved in spreading rumors about Palin’s family.
Over the weekend, liberal blogs circulated rumors that Gov. Palin had faked her own recent pregnancy to cover for Bristol -- who, the blogs suggested, was the real mother of Palin’s newborn son.
“We don’t go after people’s families,” Obama said on Monday. “It’s not appropriate and it’s not relevant. Our people were not involved in any way in this and they will not be. And if I ever thought that it was somebody in my campaign that was involved in something like that, they’d be fired."
Support from conservatives
"Bristol Palin and her family understand that a new life has been created,” said conservative Republican and former presidential hopeful Gary Bauer.
“The commitment to bring that life into the world is a testament to their pro-life philosophy. I commend them for the example they are setting for other women in crisis pregnancies."
Bauer now chairs the Campaign for Working Families, a group that describes itself as “unapologetically pro-family, pro-life, and pro-growth.
Dr. Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, said although this is not what Sarah Palin wished for her daughter, “the way we react to life's challenges is the true testament to our character.”
Yoest praised the Palin family for “displaying courage and constancy. We join them in welcoming this new life. Our prayers are with the entire Palin family as they deal with this in the intense glare of the media spotlight."
And the Family Research Council noted that teenage pregnancy has become all too common, regardless of a family’s economic or social status:
“It is a problem that we remain committed to reducing through encouraging young people to practice abstinence," said FRC President Tony Perkins.
"Fortunately, Bristol is following her mother and father's example of choosing life in the midst of a difficult situation. 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," Perkins added.
Gov. Palin earned the praise of pro-life groups for choosing to give birth to a baby with Down syndrome. Trig Palin was born in April.
Until Monday, teen pregnancy and sex education were not issues in the national political campaign.
According to the Associated Press, Sarah Palin -- in a 2006 questionnaire distributed to gubernatorial candidates -- said that “explicit sex-ed program will not find my support.”
Reporters asked McCain in November 2007 whether he supported grants for sex education in the United States, whether such programs should include directions for using contraceptives and whether he supported President Bush's policy of promoting abstinence.
"Ahhh, I think I support the president's policy," McCain said.
McCain later said he does oppose government spending on contraceptives, the Associated Press reported.
In 2006, McCain joined fellow Republicans in voting against a Senate Democratic proposal to send $100 million to communities for teen-pregnancy prevention programs that would have included sex education about contraceptives.
In 2005, McCain opposed a Senate Democratic proposal that would have spent tens of millions of dollars to pay for pregnancy prevention programs other than abstinence-only education, including education on emergency contraception such as the morning-after pill. The bill also would have required insurance companies that cover Viagra to also pay for prescription contraception.
(This report includes information provided by the Associated Press.)