Another perversion of another perfectly good English word has my ear tufts standing on end.


Oh, wait.

I am not the BPI Squirrel.

But if I were, my ear tufts would be standing on end and my arm would be outstretched and I would be saying Furthermore! Or maybe Furthermore! (but never FURTHERMORE!! … it’s in the rules)

What is this latest linguistic perversion? The word conscience.

Here is what I found:

the moral goodness of one’s own conduct, together with a feeling of obligation to do right or be good

But here is how it was used:

[Idaho’s] 2010 conscience law states that “a health care worker may refuse to provide care related to abortion, emergency contraception or end-of-life care if it violates his or her conscience”. In the Walgreens case, the nurse practitioner said the pharmacist refused to fill a prescription she ordered for Methergine, which is used to prevent or control bleeding after an abortion or childbirth. The medication is not an abortifacient.

I am not going to talk about how the pharmacy board exonerated the pharmacist on the grounds that the patient did not eventually die as the result of the pharmacist’s “conscience.” Because then steam would come out of my ears and words that I can’t use (darned rules again!) would come leaping off my keyboard.

Instead I need some help understanding what their word “conscience” means.

I want to understand how it can be considered “right” or “good” that a woman who is bleeding, regardless of the reason for her bleeding, can be denied a legal drug that will stop her bleeding and probably save her life.

I want to understand how a person who dispenses drugs from a legal prescription can invoke any kind of clause, conscience or otherwise, to refuse to fill that prescription. Or to hang up on a nurse trying to get the prescription filled when she asks to be transferred to someone who will fill the prescription.

I want to understand how our laws have become so perverted that legal medical procedures can be thwarted by people whose only job is to count pills and repackage drugs.

Maybe the problem is that conscience is not the right word.

I’d like to try another word on for size: unconscionable.

excessive, unreasonable, shockingly unfair or unjust

Yup. That one fits pretty well. Except in good conscience, I might need to add “deadly” to it.