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Suddenly Sonia: Is Sonia Sotomayor Supreme Court-bound?

Sonia Sotomayor, a Bronx-born New York City native, is a federal Appeals court judge, a 54-year-old Hispanic woman, a summa cum laude graduate of Princeton who received her law degree from Yale, and a potential Supreme Court nominee. The name “Sotomayor” has been much seen in the news since Supreme Court Justice David Souter’s retirement plans became public. 

She’s got a lot going for her. An American Bar Association Journal article refers to her  “attractive life narrative and an even more attractive resumé.” And there’s one other thing that makes news about her so very attractive.

She is apparently Catholic. She went to Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx and she’s of Puerto Rican heritage. Everybody feels it’s safe to assume she’s Catholic. Catholic; female; Supreme Court: the legality of abortion in these United States. We all know where this is headed, and why her potential nomination is such a very juicy story.


What’s interesting about this story from a buddhist perspective? To me, it’s the fixation, the way the human mind — or, certainly, the public mind as shown in the media — solidifies around one topic, one view, one projection. In the fluid and ever-changing continuum of life, the universe, and everything, when the media looks at the Supreme Court, the focus seems to be dead-solid locked on abortion. Unwavering.

Nothing is dead-solid locked in the real world. Impermanence is a truth, one of the basic truths of life that Buddhism urges us to recognize. So obvious it seems trite. And so very hard to integrate into our world view. 

Throughout history, abortion was legal, then it wasn’t, then it was. There were no black judges on the Supreme Court, then there were. There were no women there and then there were. We think we know how it’s gonna be, and it isn’t.


Sonia Sotomayor’s “attractive life narrative” is a fine example. A young Puerto Rican woman born in a Bronx housing project, whose father died before she was ten, raised with her brother by a working single mother. Well, everyone knows how that is gonna turn out.

With that background, everyone would think she’d become . . . a summa cum laude Princeton graduate with a Yale Law School diploma, an accomplished lawyer, a barrier-breaking Latina who became the first Hispanic federal judge in New York State. And the decider of the outcome of the Major League Baseball strike in the 1990s.

Whether Sonia Sotomayor is Supreme Court-bound or not, is all Supreme Court discussion going to be bound up forever on one question? Of course not. And no one really knows how that is gonna turn out. Especially if we can unbind ourselves from some of our most binding thought patterns.

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posted May 3, 2009 at 7:32 pm

Is she a lesbian?

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posted May 4, 2009 at 11:18 am

Political change takes place precisely because there is a belief that things are or could be in a state of permanence. We need a belief in permamence. Such a belief is not always delusional. Indeed, the case of Sotomayor as put before us is a fine example of how much Buddhism needs social & political theory–and vice versa. Adherence to the principle of anicca is insufficient.

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Bill M

posted May 4, 2009 at 11:22 am

Yes, my friend. The ONLY issue today is abortion. She is either Pro-life of pro-death. Its the only issue that defines her/his moral values.

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Paul Griffin

posted May 4, 2009 at 2:28 pm

I appreciate your reflections here. Narrative-clinging, the way in which we attach to certain basic or archetypal narratives — whether they involve “the Bronx” or “single mothers” or “a Puerto Rican woman” — is a pervasive example of how the human mind constantly over-solidifies. The solution for me has always been to read fiction, with its subtleties and its steadfast refusals to simplify life. And of course, when the fiction runs dry, real life itself trumps even a well-told story.

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posted May 4, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Wow, really? You are either pro-life or pro-death? The problem, too me with abortion debates is that this is one of the most subtle and nuanced issues morally of all-time, yet so many folks act like it is black and white, and so there is no discussion.
Also, any anti-abortion people who also support war lose their standing with me. The tiny group of people who are both anti-abortion AND anti-war are quite an interesting group. I believe Dennis Kucinich used to fit this bill until he had a change and became pro-choice.
I am strongly pro-choice, but I will never pretend this is a simple issue. Sorry Bill.

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Your Name

posted May 4, 2009 at 3:52 pm

I thought this was a very good blog on Sotomayor. Very balanced and informative:

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posted May 4, 2009 at 9:43 pm

@Mu I think a lot of people at the Interdependence Project would very much like to talk about a Buddhist social and political theory. The idea of interdependence itself, or “interbeing” as Thich Naht Hahn puts it, seems to demand one. Love to hear more about yr ideas on this.
But I’m not clear about your point that “a belief in permanence is not always delusional” (I think it is) and that a belief in permanence drives social change. If people believed things were permanent and couldn’t change, why would they act? Are you positing that they fear permanence, that things won’t change, and that’s why they act?
One thing I was looking at here was the way that what seems so permanent, solid, and black-and-white — the only quality to be discussed about a Supreme Court nominee is her or his stand on abortion; the legality of abortion will be decided by the Supreme Court: a single mother in a housing project will bring up criminals, not a Supreme Court justice — may not be so solid.
I think of other great questions in US history: the question of slavery, which was to have been decided by the Dred Scott case, and was decided instead by the Civil War; or the ERA, which never became an amendment but which has effectively, if not wholly, come to pass in practice and via a host of smaller laws; or the right of black citizens to vote, which was supposedly decided by the 15th Amendment, and didn’t for almost 100 years. What we think will happen is not often what happens. Our concepts are not reality.
Interesting to look at our thinking not only about the answers, but how the answers will arrive, and see how solid that is.

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Loren Christian

posted May 11, 2009 at 3:58 pm

It is true that there are many twists and turns to a Supreme Court nomination and when you think you can predict the out-come–you find out you are wrong and for different reasons than what is thought. This is the case here. What is little known about Sonia Sotomayor is that she did not look into or did little or nothing about allegations of misconduct against Rosemary Pooler whom she supervised prior Pooler also entering the 2nd Circuit. This revelation could affect the out-come of Sotomayor’s nomination unless she can explain herself.

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posted May 26, 2009 at 9:43 am

1. the act of dying; the end of life; the total and permanent cessation of all the vital functions of an organism.
4. extinction; destruction.
Hmmm…I believe that the legality of abortion is a gray area. I am a pragmatist there. There is an issue of a woman’s property (her body) but also one of a human entitled to state protections. Very tough issue. But pro-life, and pro-death is pretty black-and-white. Sorry. You are ending a life if you have an abortion — this cannot be doubted by any rational person. I am not an extremist with regards to the law, but with the definition…let’s call a spade a spade, let’s come to the table with some honesty. My niece was born at one pound in 1989 — her doctors recommended abortion due to viability concerns. She is now about to graduate from college. So sorry if this offends, but if my sister listened to medical advice, she would have officially committed murder — medically sanctioned or not. Her “choice” would not have altered the biological status (living) of my niece.

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Your Name

posted May 26, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Since becoming legal in 1973, abortion in just the USA has killed over 45.5 million human babies… Abortion is a painful torturous death to the most innocent among us… all for convenience, all for a presumed better outcome than going to term and having a baby and raising the child, or giving the child up for adoption.
Life is a maze, we can’t see the turns ahead and where life will take us. Choosing life is a leap of faith; choosing death is faithless and tragic. I do not pass judgment on mothers who choose abortion, it is not up to me to judge. I consider all parents and families of aborted babies to be victims of abortion. A wonderful resource for women considering abortion and for all the living victims of abortion is
It breaks my heart that my brothers and sisters who marched against the war and preached non violence seem to be in the very political group that advocates abortion “rights.” I cannot stand with them on this issue. I am against the death penalty, unjust wars and of course, abortion.
I pray Sonia realizes this should this issue come up in her years on the bench.
in peace,
Laurie Mcclain

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posted May 26, 2009 at 3:09 pm

RE: rigdenpoet May 4, 2009 2:38 PM
….. ” The problem, too me with abortion debates is that this is one of the most SUBTLE AND NUANCED issues morally of all-time, yet so many folks act like it is BLACK AND WHITE, and so there is no discussion.”
Your statements reflect the insane philosophy of an America nation on the way out. Not all issues are “SUBTLE AND NUANCED”. This act, abortion, which, in every instance exterminates defenceless and innocent human life, is always BLACK or WHITE.
A child dies or lives: it’s one or the other; BLACK or WHITE.
A women NEVER has the right to end a life for reasons of inconvenience. As for rape/incest; only if other options are legitimately presented. Abortion on demand, right up to and now including birth, is legal by whose standards? 9 justices and the most misguided president (on life) ever to hold power. Abortion became law without tne consent of the governed.
Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of the majority opinion (Roe v. Wade), stated that the Constitution DOES NOT explicitly mention a right to privacy but, “in varying contexts the Court or individual justices have, indeed, found at least the roots of that right.” The right to an abortion was then considered an extension of this privacy right.
Pro-choice advocates claim that opposition to Roe is uninformed and misplaced, since Roe gave women a “constitutuinal right” to an abortion. However, Roe v Wade, the very case which made abortion a constitutional right, is in fact, not based in the Constitution.
These 45+ million unborn deaths are the AMERICAN HOLOCAUST…. and in the centuries to come, OUR holocaust will be what America is remembered for, not SUBTLE AND NUANCED debate.
Mr. Peter M. Clark Leominster, MA

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posted May 26, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Declarations here indicate alienated philosophy of America-nation on the exit. All the expenditure is not “SUBTLY AND NUANCED” ; This act, the elimination that, in each case the disarmed and innocent human life removes, is always BLACK or WHITE. A child dies or saw: it’s one or the other; BLACK or WHITE. The right to finish a life for reasons of nuisance has Mrs. DENIES. With regard to the flight/incest; only if the other elections are represented juridically. The elimination with and, need maintaining including the birth, which one allows standards? Justice and the president misled (on the life) indeed to hold with an energy. The elimination was regulated law without the assent. Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of the opinion of majority (Ford of Rogen-V.), indicated that the constitution expressly does not mention however a right to the private life, in the different bonds, the court or particular justice has found indeed at least the roots of that right. The right aiming at an elimination was then regarded as an expansion of this private right of life. For the right to an elimination of lawyers affirm that the opposition of do not inform and is deferred in Rogen, there Rogen women gave; constitutuional right with an elimination. However, Rogen V, the case which formed an elimination a constitutional law, watet is indeed, founded in the constitution. These deaths million 45+ are THE AMERICAN HOLOCAUST…. with the America, to SUBTLE step AND a debate MODERATED for and at the centuries to come OUR holocaust is recalled, is.

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posted May 26, 2009 at 6:27 pm

thanks to todays techo world we now see inside the womb of the mother from the very start. how anyone can say abortion isn’t murder is beyond me. its for all of us not just catholics. 50 million of God’s children have been murdered throughout this earth the Father gave us. Praise Jesus this year of 2009 the rate of abortions has decreased. If the head of the United States wants true success he will abolish abortions, just as those in the olden days abolished the sacrfice of their first borns and were rewarded many times over. can’t get the picture out of my mind of those tiny tiny feet that someone thought was a person :( prays for us all as we go through the coming changes of this age.

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posted May 26, 2009 at 9:39 pm

Whether or not abortions are murder is not for me to decide, nor will I admit that a supreme court ruling will end all abortions. What is true in this world, right now, is that abortions are occurring as I write this. Chances are abortions will continue to occur regardless of what the Supreme Court dictates. As far as I am concerned, each person I meet who decides to share with me that they have had an abortion or is seeking an abortion, I will listen to, comfort if need be, and treat with kindness.

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Your Name

posted May 27, 2009 at 11:28 pm

You know, I had an abortion five years ago. I believe I’m a spiritual person and I do try to be moral in all my decisions. That said, I never think about the abortion unless I’m reading an article like this. I’ve never regretted it and if it had been illegal, I still would have done it. I saw the ultrasound right before I did it and the embryo was a tiny speck — no hands, no feet, no nothing.
I believe in reincarnation and things happening for a reason. If an embryo is aborted, it’s because it wasn’t the right time for them to be born. Souls get plenty of chances to be reborn. And even if you don’t believe in reincarnation, you can’t control what people do with their bodies.

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posted May 28, 2009 at 11:19 am

well, this discussion went exactly where the habitual patterns of American discussion usually go.
I’d repeat: could we think about how to deal with the abortion debate outside the context of the Supreme Court? The abortion debate may not be ended by the placement of Sonia Sotomayor on the Supreme Court, and it may not be ended by a Supreme Court decision. Slavery sure wasn’t. I can’t imagine another way to solve it myself, and I sure don’t envision a civil war solution, but I do wonder if we are so stuck in a fruitless pattern of debate that we can’t ever see another way. Or if we can.
One thing that makes me intensely curious is the complete absence of world context in discussion of abortions. As if the US is the only place the procedure is legal.
How come none of the abortion foes seem to ever, ever speak out on the very large numbers of abortions that occur in India and China? Interestingly enough, there abortion is often used as a sex-selection device: i.e. parents choose to abort female fetuses at a much higher rate. Anti-abortion folks seem to have no problem with that. They just want to make sure those folks don’t get any birth control!
It is those strange gaps and skips in the debate that fascinate me. What AREN’T we looking at?

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