In the wake of the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs’ death, several pro-life news groups and a columnist in the Washington Times highlighted the little-known fact that Jobs was given up for adoption as a baby.
The point: If Jobs’ mother had aborted him instead, the world would have never known the man who will surely go down in history books as one of the greatest innovators of all time; a man whose impact on the world we know— from personal computers to media consumption — is difficult to overstate.
You know the story? Jobs was born in San Francisco in 1955 to an unwed graduate student. Her family did not approve of the father, a Syrian and also a graduate student, but she married him when her father died, which was less than a year after she gave up Jobs for adoption. (They divorced not many years later.) His adoptive parents, a machinist and an accountant, were not college graduates, which caused a hitch in the adoption proceedings until they promised Jobs would go to college.
In the end, Jobs ended up dropping out of college after a semester, never to graduate, and made his way to India where he became a Buddhist before returning to develop his computer career. (Another little-known fact: He credited some of the success of his first computers to the art of script and fonts he learned in a college calligraphy course taught by Robert Palladino, a former Trappist monk and future Portland, Ore., archdiocesan priest.)
As a pro-life heroism story, it is not the strongest. Abortion was probably not a real option for his biological mother in 1955. And it is unclear, at least as far as I can tell from the public record, what Jobs’ personal position on abortion was, or whether he saw his own birth as a pro-life lesson in any way. (Though he clearly did view having and raising his own children as the highpoint of his earthly accomplishments: “It’s 10,000 times better than anything I’ve ever done,” he told one interviewer.)
On its own, his story is unlikely to change the heart of someone already committed to the pro-choice cause. After all, for every unborn child who might have ended up like Steve Jobs that has been killed by abortion, there may be an equal number like Osama bin Laden.
And it's a mistake to get entangled in speculative fantasies of how the world might be a better or different place if only someone else... if it means we lose momentum to make the world truly, actually a better place by practicing forgiveness and love.
But at the very least, his story should give the open-minded reason to pause and consider the magnitude of the loss of more than 50 million American lives to abortion since its legalization in 1973. What an extraordinary loss of talent and energy and creativity; more tragically what a loss of potential family members, friends, mentors, spouses.