Talk of 'rights' in debate about the Eighth leads to confusion
The American penchant for the possession and use of guns is underpinned by the so-called 'right' to bear arms. This 'right' is given a quasi-religious ring to it in the suggestion that it is enshrined in the American constitution. More bizarrely, it is sometimes referred to as 'a God-given right'.
The abortion debate in Ireland, in its turn, is played out as a conflict between the competing rights of the mother and those of the foetus, with all the ambiguity that this engenders.
Once again, talk of 'human rights' is in the air, intensifying our awareness that they do not drop from the sky but are generated by us as we seek to make sense of our obligations to one another.