wider access to safe abortion, a broader and often conflicting array of sources of information on sexual behavior and mores including the media and sexuality education provided in public schools, and an overt recognition of and pressure to accept sexual activities and alternate family configurations not consonant with traditional religious teachings.

In addressing the current overlap of religious doctrine and political ideology, it is helpful to consider several separate dimensions, including the appropriate locus for transmission of information and values regarding sexual behavior and family function, the use of contraception both within and outside of marriage, the increased public visibility and wider availability of abortion, the extent to which individuals adhere to the official positions of their religious, and the use of political strategies to assert religious and philosophical positions.

Most organized religions transmit values through an alliance with the family, both through formal instruction during or in conjunction with religious services and through modeling of behavior by the family. This traditional mode of transmission has been complicated by the availability of alternative sources of information, especially media.

In response to persistently high rates of teenage pregnancy, and more recently the spread of HIV, efforts have been undertaken to provide information and more appropriate models of behavior through the schools. Although most organized religions support such efforts, some individuals perceive the information and values to run counter to their own religious principles. They view these efforts as encouraging premature sexual activity and sexual activity outside the bounds of formally approved unions. Hence, such efforts are perceived as undermining traditional family values.

In contrast to issues surrounding the transmission of values that generally involves custom rather than formal principles, many organized religions have formal principles dealing with contraception and abortion. Most religions encourage responsible procreation within the confines of marital unions. Most did not, however, have strong moral or ethical traditions regarding contraception and abortion until this century, and there is only a very limited scriptural background on these issues. In Judeo-Christian traditions, only one Biblical passage can be construed as dealing with contraception (and that interpretation is controversial), and the Koran does not have any clear-cut teaching on this topic. Thus, most religious traditions prior to this century reflected the teachings of religious scholars, often in response to specific questions, events, or heresies. Until this century, most Christian scholars condemned contraception and abortion, with more variability within the Jewish and Islamic traditions (D'Antonio, 1994).

In the 1930s, however, this situation changed when the mainline Protestant churches in the United States began to approve contraceptive use by married couples and then later to accept abortion. As is well known, the Roman Catholic Church formally forbids the use of any contraceptive techniques other than

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement