Two years ago, I wrote a piece for this blog about my decision to have an abortion. It was the most difficult decision I’ve ever made, and the most difficult piece I’ve ever written. Abortion is a common procedure. An estimated one in three British women and one in four American women will have an abortion by the time they’re 45, yet most women who have terminated a pregnancy keep their decision secret, driven often by a sense of guilt and shame. I would not have shared the story of my own abortion but for the threat posed to abortion rights by the Trump administration’s nomination and ultimate confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. As I type, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are making their opening statements in the confirmation hearings of Trump’s third appointee to the US Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett.
Brenda Hale, the president of the United Kingdom Supreme Court, will retire in January 2020. She took an atypical route to the summit of the judiciary, having been appointed to the High Court from an academic career (she was a professor of law at Manchester University) rather than practice at the Bar. Her speciality was family law, considered by some in the profession as a poor relation, which it may be in terms of earnings, and intellectually soft, which it isn’t. Family cases throw up enormously complex and important legal issues, such as the rights of parents and children as against local authorities, cross-border disputes over children and property, and the ethics of medical treatment against parental wishes. Hale’s academic and judicial work has also focused on social welfare and mental health law, subjects far removed from the bloodless commercial work that fills the CVs of most senior judges.