Chelsea Clinton's Grandmother Paradox

Chelsea Clinton has repeatedly described the inspiring life of her maternal grandmother as a strong influence on her commitment to service. She told part of the story earlier this week at a Day of Action in Chicago. And Life News noticed that last month she gave a fuller version during a plenary session at the 2013 Women Deliver conference held in Malaysia.

Also on the dais that day was Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider. The moderator on the panel introduced each speaker and then let them talk. Cecile Richards spoke just before Chelsea. When it was her turn, Chelsea was asked about having the spotlight on her in the White House but rather than talk about herself directly, she talked about the influence of her maternal grandmother. Here is, in part, what she said:

I think the most profound influence in my life, outside of my parents, by far was my grandmother. Actually someone much closer to home who was born in the United States before women had the right to vote. And she was born to two teenage parents who were not married…[Gestures toward Cecile Richards] people who did not have access to the services that are so crucial that Planned Parenthood helps provide. And she was abandoned by her parents twice before the age of eight.

Normally this is not the sort of story that it seems appropriate to
comment on in a political context. It’s family history and deeply
personal. But since Chelsea is putting this out in public, repeatedly,
as part of her story she must think it’s okay to discuss in public.

There’s no doubt the grandmother’s story is heartbreaking and also, ultimately, triumphant. But those two things are often functions of one another. It’s a tragic story because it’s painful to imagine any 8 year old being treated so callously. It’s triumphant because that girl overcame her circumstances–abandoned at 8 years old and kicked out of the house at 13–and gave a very different life to her daughter, Hillary Clinton. It’s a true rags to riches story.

I can see why Chelsea would find that story inspirational. What I cannot understand is the idea that, in the context of telling her grandmother’s story, Planned Parenthood deserves a nod for their “crucial” services. Here I think political orthodoxy has triumphed over common sense.

Would the world really be a better place if her great grandparents had been able to go to Planned Parenthood and insure, one way or another, that her grandmother was never born? Certainly it may have been better for Chelsea’s great grandparents, but they seem to be the least likable individuals in this story.

Obviously if the grandmother was never born her inspiring life would never have happened. And if her life never happened she would never have a daughter or a granddaughter. The whole thing becomes a kind of time travel paradox in which someone goes back in time to kill their own grandfather.

The reason Chelsea tells the story of her grandmother is because her story is about overcoming adversity. All Planned Parenthood offers is a negation of that inspiring life. In this case, how is that an improvment?

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