SOME decisions are so personal and fundamental that they do not belong in the public sphere. Into this category I put a woman’s right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy. For me, this is not an issue for state, political or religious interference but rather a health matter to be decided upon in private by a woman and her doctor.

Yet politics and religion continue to prevent women all over the world from taking decisions about their bodies and lives. There is at least some hope, however, for those closest to home. Last week MPs at Westminster voted by 332 to 99 to extend abortion to Northern Ireland, at the same time voting by 383 to 73 to legalise same-sex marriage, amendments that, it should be noted, will only pass into law if the power-sharing assembly at Stormont that collapsed in January 2017 is not restored by October 31.

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Inevitably, the votes and outcomes caused much consternation among those who object to abortion and same-sex marriage on religious grounds. What was perhaps most interesting, not to mention concerning, however, was the way anti-abortion campaigners and commentators shamelessly, disingenuously used devolution to defend their position.

Some even turned their vitriol upon the SNP, whose MPs have historically abstained from voting on devolved matters at Westminster, calling the party hypocritical for deigning to “interfere” in Northern Ireland, while conveniently ignoring the interference and misery current laws cause in the lives of women and same-sex couples there.

Ultimately, such arguments are spurious because devolution doesn’t currently exist in Northern Ireland. Even for a population so used to division and uncertainty, these are hard and worrying times. All but completely politically excluded, the people of Northern Ireland, on the front line of any hard Brexit, are forced to live without a working legislature just when they need it most.

For two and a half years civil servants have managed affairs without taking any real decisions; education, health, housing, the economy have all been in stasis – many would say in crisis – since the clock stopped. At the same time, the Republic of Ireland marches forward, socially and economically, its Yes votes in referendums on abortion and same-sex marriage leaving its neighbour’s draconian, life-ruining laws looking increasingly untenable, especially since polling in Northern Ireland consistently shows majority support for both.

Read more: Kevin McKenna: The SNP's social diktats are a betrayal of the Yes movement

Gifted a bizarre amount of power in Theresa May’s administration, the DUP has spent the last two years hammering the idea that Northern Ireland should never be treated differently from the rest of the UK. And yet, when it comes to human rights, the party plays the devolution card as a means to enforce its hardline religious doctrine on others, depriving citizens of access to healthcare and the ability to formalise a loving relationship. We should remember that although the DUP constantly purports to represent “Northern Ireland”, in reality it has minority support in the country.

Lest we also forget the severity of the situation at hand; abortion is banned in Northern Ireland even in cases of rape or fatal foetal abnormality: women can be jailed. Many travel to the UK – including Scotland – for the procedure, while others, from deprived communities and in abusive relationships, don’t even have the means or opportunity to do that.

It goes without saying that it would be better for the Northern Ireland assembly to legislate on this and all other matters. But since there is no sign of the two sides in the stand-off – the DUP and Sinn Fein – reaching agreement, no realistic chance that Stormont will be up and working any time soon, it is inevitable and right that Westminster stepped in.

Earlier this year, a report by the Commons committee on women and equality – which heard a raft of evidence from women in Northern Ireland, including the case of a 12 year-old rape victim who had to travel to England with a police escort to receive an abortion – called for immediate reform to the law. This vote was expected.

And it was entirely legitimate that SNP MPs took part, on grounds of human rights alone. The concept of human rights itself surely overrides any particular political or parliamentary settlement.

At the root of equality for women across the globe is the fundamental right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy. It is a sign of how deeply patriarchal society remains, especially in religious spheres, including in Scotland, that so many men in particular believe it is acceptable to tell women what they should and should not be allowed to do with their bodies and their lives.

Many of these men would doubtless support campaigns for equal pay and political representation. That’s all very well. But paying lip service to such things while telling women they do not have rights over their bodies is condescending, hypocritical and deeply suspect.

The fact they still cannot grasp this is even more disturbing.