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The following is from my post to the Soto Zen Buddhist Association teacher’s list. It responds in part to comments by my Dharma sister, Konjin Gaelyn Godwin Roshi of the Houston Zen Center.


Excerpts from Gaelyn’s post:


The politics behind the recent decision taking down Roe are far more interesting than some mythical belief in the status of a fetus. The politics are about power and control. So, as usual, cui bono = who benefits? Certainly not the fetus, certainly not the women. A fertilized egg is not a human, but a walking-around-woman is. The far right has cynically distracted its own base with a sentimentalized illustration of a tiny human living in a womb. Once it’s out of the womb, it’s on its own — no social support from the far right, or as little as possible. It’s all about power. Controlling women is one major goal of right wing theocracy — women are still not allowed to speak in Southern Baptist Churches, for example. Who says that Buddhism considers the fetus a human? Any reference to it is embedded in very recent cultural comments. Just as all the misogynistic verses in the sutras, most policies pertaining to women are culturally embedded, outdated, and anachronistic. As one of my Japanese Buddhist friends recently asked me: Why is the abortion issue such a big deal? Try to explain that to someone who wasn’t raised in a Christian environment!


My response:


Yes, this is about power, and portends an attempted anti-democratic takeover of our country, in progress. The now illegitimate “Supreme Court” membership has been cynically manipulated by Mitch McConnell. The end of Roe is not solely a woman’s issue.  All of us are involved. The court explicitly threatened to outlaw contraception and same-sex marriage.  After that they might well outlaw LGBT people and interracial marriage. The whole right to privacy is endangered. Please see:, sent out by Roshi Joan Halifax with excellent background information on the history of all this. Our basic social safety net is endangered, along with the EPA, for example.


To privilege the rights of the fetus is strange. If this was truly “pro-life” there would be measures for good childcare to protect the new-borns, and good healthcare for mothers and children, along with good public education for post-fetus children. What about the right to life of endangered species in the midst of mass extinction. Why are they not talking about the life of our planet? The hypocrisy is immense.


Here in Illinois, a congressional candidate, standing next to the former president who had endorsed her, said that the Court decision is, “a victory for white life.” Certainly this ruling will most deeply injure black, hispanic, and indigenous women, and all those without the means to travel to other states. Those who control our government now are enacting massive voter suppression around the country, and working to obliterate the right to study our country’s history of slavery and racism.


The court is also working toward everyone having the right to open carry assault rifles.


All of this involves crucial ethical issues in our world, implications of our bodhisattva precepts. If we are truly concerned about “diversity,” we must respond to racist policies. We may respond in various ways, as each of us sees fit, including joining demonstrations, contacting congresspeople, and Voting, as long as that right remains. Also just speaking out about all this keeps it in awareness. Thanks to our neighbor Reirin Gumbel from Milwaukee Zen Center for publicly speaking out in her robes at a clergy response event .


We need to persist in working for justice and basic decency. This is nor “politics” but the critical ethical issue now.


may all beings be happy,
Taigen Leighton
Guiding Teacher
Ancient Dragon Zen Gate