Steve Jobs, abortion, and the geniuses we’ll never know


If Steve Jobs’ mother became pregnant with him today instead of in 1955, would he even be born? Although that question is impossible to answer, current data show that abortion would not be a surprising choice for his mom to make in this hypothetical situation.

Jobs’ birth mother, Joanne Schieble, fits almost every demographic description of a woman most likely to get an abortion:

  • Schieble was 23 years old at the time of the pregnancy (20-24 year olds account for 33 percent of induced abortions, the highest of any age group)
  • She was single and had never been married (72 percent of induced abortions are received by women who have never married)
  • Schieble was white (36 percent of women receiving induced abortions are white, the highest of any race) (Source: Guttmacher Institute, 2011)

In short, a single, white, 23-year-old woman is the typical candidate for abortion today.

A paragraph in Walter Isaacson’s newly released, official biography of Steve Jobs explains why Jobs was put up for adoption rather than aborted:

When they [Schieble and her boyfriend, Abdulfattah Jandali] returned to Wisconsin she discovered that she was pregnant. They were both twenty-three, but they decided not to get married. Her father was dying at the time, and he had threatened to disown her if she wed Abdulfattah. Nor was abortion an easy option in a small Catholic community. So in early 1955, Joanne traveled to San Francisco, where she was taken into the care of a kindly doctor who sheltered unwed mothers, delivered their babies, and quietly arranged closed adoptions (Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs, p. 3, emphasis added).

So, was the peer pressure of a small Catholic community to opt for life a good thing or a bad thing? And what about kindly doctors willing to assist and encourage birth and adoption?

We can all agree that Steve Jobs was one in a million. Even at that ratio, with 53 million abortions performed in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade, has humankind lost the life-altering, mind-boggling contributions of 53 geniuses? To say nothing of the good the remaining 52,999,947 could have brought to the world. Sure, I suppose in total they could have contributed more bad than good, but I’m more optimistic than that. My point is this: Are we the ones who should decide if an innocent, unborn human being should die?

Some may say, “I thought you were in favor of ‘healthy,’ traditional families – what if millions of children had been born into extremely difficult circumstances or to parents who didn’t want them?”

Certainly, the ideal environment for new life is a home with a mother and father, married to each other, who are responsible, hard working and committed to making their home an environment of love where all its members can flourish. For myriad reasons this ideal is often not accomplished. In the case that the mother and/or father do not want to keep the baby, adoption is preferred over abortion. And even if children are to be born into difficult circumstances, why not let them live and grow and determine what kind of life they can make for themselves? Many people have done this quite successfully (e.g., see here and here).

This post should not be confused as a utilitarian argument that abortion is wrong only because the unborn might add more good to the world. It simply illustrates another aspect of the societal damage that abortion causes.

At its core, abortion is wrong morally and ethically, regardless of the potential benefit or harm the aborted lives might bring to society.

*Update: Page 254 of Walter Isaacson’s official biography of Steve Jobs quotes Jobs as saying, “I wanted to meet my biological mother mostly to see if she was okay and to thank her, because I’m glad I didn’t end up as an abortion. She was twenty-three and she went through a lot to have me.”