WASHINGTON — It was hard to believe the time was running out. Maybe it would not, after all. It had been so long — nearly 49 years, with a few scares along the way — that the illusion had held, that she was a citizen, a person with rights to be respected in her own right. That not merely her life was worthy of protection, but also her ability to make choices for her own future. That she was just as good as any state legislator, and possessed certain rights they could not abridge!

Those 49 years had flown by. But when the court’s clock struck, her run would in all likelihood begin to end. She would stop being a person with autonomy over her own body that the law was bound to respect. She would go back to being a vessel that might potentially contain a person, a vessel whose rights ended once that possibility was considered.

It had been so nice, thinking that she could go anywhere in the United States and the laws would have to acknowledge her right to decide whether she wanted to be pregnant, that any doctor who treated her could give her correct information about what risks she faced, that if her life were threatened, her life would carry weight.

But no. Her rights were all the alienable kind, it turned out, and she was nothing more than a sort of empty clay jar into which, if she were sufficiently blessed, a person might one day be deposited. Her mistake!

She pondered what to do while the Supreme Court heard arguments about Mississippi’s abortion law and deliberated upon them and formed an opinion. There were so many person things she had liked getting to do. She was glad she had gotten some voting in, earlier in the month. Maybe she should sue someone in court, or hold a job outside the home, or try to express an opinion in print somewhere. Maybe she could go feed some birds. Maybe she could pursue a little happiness. She could get a latte!

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There were so many choices that were wonderful if you made them for yourself and nightmarish if others forced them upon you.

Forty-nine years was long enough that she had started to think of herself as a full member of the body politic. She had begun to feel that she would definitely be able to use medical science to avoid dying. She had watched people be born during that time who did not know what it was like to be anything other than a person.

It would be hardest for them, to be so forcibly reminded they were not. To have their autonomy wrested from them. Not only women, either — plenty of people who would be shocked to find themselves downgraded because they possessed parts the state felt were public domain.

She sat on a bench and watched the leaves fall. It had been nice while it lasted, being a person. Getting turned back into a vessel would be unfortunate. But maybe she would not stay a vessel long.

It was a little surprising they thought they had the power to do it.

She could see them salivating already at the prospect of having so many people transformed so quickly, and overnight. They seemed to think it was a real possibility.

As if they got to decide. As if she would not fight.