AS a progressive feminist in Scotland, a forward looking democratic country seeking to gain its independence, I admit to occasionally feeling quite smug while comparing the mood of my country to that currently dictating events in the USA.

Watching the determination of Donald Trump to swear in Brett Kavanaugh despite the allegations of sexual assault he faces, I have felt fury and righteous indignation.

How can American senators seriously be supporting this man’s nomination for the Supreme Court?

The allegations he faces are reason enough to block his appointment to the Supreme Court. But there are other clear and present dangers to appointing Kavanaugh to the highest court in the land, and so tipping its balance in favour of conservatives.

That risks a vote to overturn the landmark abortion ruling of the US law Roe v Wade. Such a move would allow each American state to make its own rulings around abortion. A woman’s ability to access a legal abortion would then become a postcode lottery.

To those of us who believe access to legal abortion is a medical and social necessity, the thought that American women could be denied that is chilling.

But in fact there is little room for smugness on this issue. Contrary to popular belief, abortion is still criminalised in Scotland, almost alone among other European countries.

The 1967 Abortion Act does not legalise abortion, it simply sets out the limited circumstances in which abortion may be legally carried out. The Act was brought into statute largely to stop the loss of life from backstreet abortions. It is now decades old and does not reflect any of the major societal or technological changes which have taken place since then.

In 2018 abortion is a safe and straightforward procedure, yet the 1967 law doesn’t take cognisance of the many developments in abortion health care in the decades since its adoption.

Abortion can only legally take place in Scotland if two doctors, in agreement and in good faith, authorise the procedure in certain restricted circumstances if they believe that continuing with the pregnancy poses a greater risk to a woman’s physical or mental health. We are seeing the politicisation of abortion throughout Europe, with prosecutions taking place and protests becoming more frequent.

One hundred thousand women took to the streets and protested when abortion laws were tightened in Poland. An increasing number of doctors in Italy – seven out of 10 according to the Italian Ministry of Health in 2016 – will not perform abortions.

Prosecutions in the UK are not unknown. This year, women in England and Northern Ireland have been prosecuted for procuring abortion pills on the internet.

And, of course, Donald Trump has stated that US women should be criminally punished for having abortions.

All this goes to prove that we cannot assume social acceptance of abortion will be permanent. Attitudes change, and not always in the way we would hope. With the rise of the far right across the UK, US and Europe, we cannot be complacent. Women should not have to rely on a “gentleman’s agreement” to access reproductive health care.

Many women’s organisations in Scotland argue that it’s time to make abortion free, safe and legal whenever women need it. I agree, despite my own deeply uncomfortable feelings about late abortions.

Despite tabloid scare stories, the truth is that women don’t just “forget” to have abortions early in their pregnancy. They are neither wicked nor stupid ... there are very real and usually difficult and sad reasons why women have late-term abortions.

I know this from my own experience, when I chose a late-term abortion rather than expose my two young daughters to the birth of a brother who was destined to die within days because of an extreme chromosomal abnormality.

Certain foetal abnormalities are only discovered post amniocentesis or CVS around the 20-week mark of pregnancy.

Some women will also have their access to abortion advice or procedures restricted due to implications of domestic abuse. Their very real fears and control issues may cause delays in their ability to access abortion.

There are also significant barriers to accessing gynaecological health care for women in certain ethnic minority communities in Scotland, for trans men and non-binary people, refugees and women or girls seeking asylum, and disabled women.

Any solution which does not look after minority and easy-to-ignore groups is no solution at all.

Barriers to legal abortion in Scotland can mean that women seeking a late-term abortion in the country are forced to travel to England, in much the same way as our sisters in Northern Ireland.

The UN Human Rights Committee has criticised the UK Government on the criminality of abortion. CEDAW (the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women) has also identified abortion law as discriminatory.

Let’s make no mistake about it – abortion is also a class issue and a financial issue. Better-off women will always be able to travel to access private abortion.

A 2016 report from Engender (Our bodies, our choice) argued that access to safe, legal abortion is a fundamental element of bodily autonomy, and of social and economic equality. There remain patriarchal and paternal attitudes about “good” v “bad” abortions. Those attitudes persuade even some of the most strident pro-lifers to agree to “rape and incest” exceptions.

But let’s think for a moment about what that actually says? It says that women who are “forced” into having sex are “good” and deserve help and those who choose to have sex are bad and must live with the consequences.

How are we ever to reach equality with those attitudes endorsed at state level?

We must trust women with their choices, their own bodies, when to have children and when not to have children. We must stop the state paternalistic infantilising of women and we must do it soon. The decision to have an abortion is complicated, personal and sometimes deeply hurtful. Why should any woman who wishes to obtain an abortion have to justify why it’s a threat to her health and mental wellbeing? Why is “I don’t want to be pregnant” not good enough?

It may seem unnecessary to articulate again the case for legal abortion. Many believed the case had been successfully made. Recent events have underlined how complacent that attitude is.

Put simply, abortion rights are women’s rights. Women’s progress in society and in the workplace relies on reproductive rights.

Abortion is still viewed as a hot potato which the Westminster Government and, yes, the Scottish Government too, would rather avoid than seriously consider.

It’s not seen as a vote winner, despite strong evidence of cross-party support for the decriminalisation of abortion.

With the devolution of abortion law to Scotland in 2016, it is time that we had a conversation about how Scotland could do things differently.

We could adopt an approach that recognises an opportunity to enshrine in law a woman’s right to choose. An approach that recognises the advice of both the UN Human Rights Committee and CEDAW.

An approach that takes abortion out of the criminal justice system and allows it to be considered as the medical procedure it is. A procedure that needs no interference from politicians desperate not to alienate potential voters or from religious believers dedicated to imposing their own morality on everyone else.