The USA faces one of the most significant existential challenges in its recent history if the leak from the Supreme Court is anything to go by.

In 1973 the Court established in the case of Roe v Wade that women had a right to an abortion in certain circumstances that could not be interfered with by any of the individual states. In effect it meant that the right existed across the whole country.

Over the years that right has come under attack from various states who would dearly love to put into place far more restrictive legislation but have been unable to do so because of the Court’s original ruling.

Now it seems that ruling in Roe is going to be turned on its head. A leak from the Supreme Court (which shows you how degraded the institution has become), seems to indicate that the Court will now say that abortion policy should be handed back to the states. The difficulty is that many of those states want to implement the most restrictive legislation possible on women who are pregnant.

MORE OPINION: 

Many of those who want restrictive legislation claim to be libertarian. They rail against big government but are perfectly happy to support that concept if it means they can establish control over women's bodies.

Those states who want to restrict abortion rights will do so and there will be some who will go even further, banning all abortions regardless of the circumstances. They will also want to prevent women accessing the morning after pill.

It means that a woman who was raped would be forced to have a child. It means that a young girl who is the subject of incest will be forced to have a baby. It also means that where there is a conflict between the life of the mother and the life of the foetus, the life of the mother will count for little.

If you think I'm exaggerating, you only have to look at the comments of some of the fanatics who live in the US.

Judging by what the state of Texas is trying to do, there will be some states who will give individuals the opportunity to sue doctors who carry out terminations even though it has nothing whatsoever to do with them as individuals. That's unprecedented from a legal perspective.

People sue each other when they are in dispute not when they disagree with what another person has done that has no effect on them.

And where does this end?

No doubt there will be some in the restrictive states who will want to prevent women travelling to other states in order to have an abortion.

This may sound far fetched, but the Irish government did exactly that in 1992. Even though that attempt failed when the Supreme Court of Ireland intervened, I've no doubt it's given some American states the idea of what they might be able to do. Again, that would mean women being effectively imprisoned in their home states and forced to have a child even when there is a threat to their own health.

All this from those who keep on moaning about government being too present in their own lives.

Taking it a step further, there will be some who will try to impose their views on those states who are more liberal in their view.

Let's take an example where a woman escapes from a state which has a law preventing her from leaving to have an abortion, and that state then wishes to extradite the woman from the state she’s gone to where the law is less restrictive. Should the court order that woman be returned to the restrictive state? Should a woman who escapes Texas for example be allowed to travel to Massachusetts for an abortion without fear of the state of Texas trying to intervene? Would Texas request that Massachusetts return the woman?

Sadly, the US Supreme Court has a less than stellar history in this regard. In the days when the southern states were slave states, the Supreme Court ruled in a famous case called Dred Scott, that an escaped slave had no right to freedom even though he now lived in a state that did not have slavery.

In other words, the slave states were able to impose the consequences of slavery on those who objected very strongly to it. This court ruling has the potential to become the 21st century equivalent. Worryingly the Dred Scott case was one step on a path towards what became a civil war in America.

Here we have a modern 21st century democracy that now might well create a situation where, across much of that country, women who are pregnant will be forced to have that child regardless of the circumstances.

A 14 year old child raped by her father would have to carry a child to term regardless of all the damage that would cause her. She would be forced to carry a child born of violence.

For women whose health is in danger there will be some states who take the view that she should die rather than see a termination take place even though the baby might not survive anyway.

We are, thankfully, a long way from that in this country.

If you value The National's journalism, help grow our team of reporters by becoming a subscriber.