Amid the expressions of grief at the passing of one of America's greatest innovators -- Steve Jobs -- one offhand comment by someone on CNN was jarring. Describing his brilliance, his inventiveness, his business genius and his inspired leadership, one host added, "And his parents didn't want him! They gave him up for adoption, if you can believe that!"
It is one of the enduring misconceptions of modern life that birthparents who make adoption plans for their children "don't want them" and that this "rejection" scars the adoptee for life. Social science data refutes this. But even before considering the statistics about adoption, consider the absurdity of characterizing adoption this way in an age of widespread abortion. There are countless women who say, "I could never give up my baby for adoption" but who, strangely, see no impossibility in aborting their unborn babies.
But in contrast to the view so carelessly voiced by that news anchor, placing a child up for adoption is one of the most loving and unselfish acts imaginable. Consider 23-year-old Joanne Schieble, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin who became pregnant in 1954. She and the baby's father, a Syrian immigrant named Abdulfattah "John" Jandali were not married. (They married and divorced later.) Abortion was illegal in most states at the time, though plenty of exceptions were made, and many women got abortions. But Schieble chose to proceed with the pregnancy and give her son life. Our world would be so much diminished if she had not.
According to Jobs' recollection later, his mother had wanted to ensure that college graduates would raise him, and she had lined up a couple who met that specification. But at the last minute, the college graduate couple decided that they wanted a girl. And so Schieble agreed that Paul and Clara Jobs, a lower middle-class couple (Paul, a machinist, had not even finished high school) could raise her son on the condition that they would send him to college when the time came.
But, as the saying goes, "Man plans; God laughs." Though Mr. and Mrs. Jobs were willing to spend their entire life savings to send their son to college, he dropped out after a few months.
Jobs eventually made contact with his birth mother and his sister, the novelist Mona Simpson. But he was never in doubt about his parentage. "They were my parents," he said of Paul and Clara Jobs.