FOR women to have an equal place in society they must have full autonomy over their bodies. That’s really the beginning and the end of the debate right there.

But of course, it’s not, because there are too many outside factors vying to take a stake in what women choose to do with their bodies and when.

With the proposed devolution of abortion legislation from Westminster to Holyrood in the Scotland bill, there has begun a bout of shadow boxing – of arguments full of ifs, maybes and might bes.

If abortion legislation is devolved then maybe the time limit, currently 24 weeks, will be reduced due to the pressure of Scotland’s religious right. If abortion legislation is devolved then maybe this will be the chance for change, thanks to Scotland’s progressive left.

Whether devolution will lead to challenges to the current legislation is a wait-and-see issue. However, the voices of those of an anti-abortion stance have not seen fit to wait. I purposefully do not use the expression “pro-life” – it’s not pro the mother’s life, is it?

Listening to this topic being debated last week and this, it has been astounding the number of male voices looking to set down their opinions as fact, their opinions being that a foetus should have equal rights to that of the woman gestating it. There was a chap given airtime on the radio this week to say that he’s not religious but, re: abortion, we’re all going to hell.

Though, it’s not that astounding that men should feel it’s their place to tell women what to do with their bodies. Parliament is male dominated. It is, in reality, men who make the decisions about women’s reproductive choices.

What I wonder about these men who like to shout their opinions about situations that will never affect them is this: why aren’t they using that breath to gather the boys together for a bit of a chat? If it’s so important to them that a woman carries to term a baby that she does not want, cannot afford and that will alter her life beyond recognition why aren’t these same men making the effort to ensure that parental leave is shared equally between men and women? Why aren’t they at the head of the queue offering to go part time or give up work to stay at home and look after the children? Why aren’t they campaigning for the male pill? Why are they not foster parents?

If all life is sacred, why are they not actively making changes to societal frameworks that allow for thousands of children to live in grinding poverty, day in, day out, with barely hope of change?

Do they choose to use their bodies to sustain life - are they organ donors? Do they regularly give blood? Can I have a kidney, please?

If your viewpoint is that life begins at conception that’s fine. It’s your viewpoint to hold. But it’s not a viewpoint that should be used to turn women into little more than vessels. And it is merely a viewpoint. There is no medical, theological or philosophical agreement on when life begins therefore facts must be used.

The fact is, there will be times that a woman’s life is best served by not becoming a mother. Maybe she was raped. Maybe her partner is violent or coercive. Maybe she cannot financially sustain two lives. Maybe it’s just not the right time.

Maybe she has agonised over the decision; maybe the decision has given her no pause at all. Maybe she will regret it for the rest of her life; maybe it will be the last thing on her mind.

Where there is no maybe is that it must be her choice.

If men were told they had no right to decide for themselves whether or not to remove a ball of cells from their penises that is, at best, life changing and, at worst, potentially lethal, there would be no conversation to be had.

I wouldn’t for a minute suggest that men should hold no view on abortion. But I would hope they could separate the notion that all life brings joy from the fact women have a right to be more than a vessel, whether that is for another human being or for religious ideology or for sentiment.

The devolution of abortion to Scotland has the potential to open up a space for debate but it’s women’s voices I want to hear, not the scolding of men with nothing to gain and nothing to lose. Men who will raise their voices for an unformed, abstract foetus and not for the experience of the fully formed women in front of them.