''natural family planning" or the rhythm method, and any use of abortion for any reason. Other conservative religious groups also proscribe contraception and abortion, including the Lubavitcher Hasidic sect, the Church of Latter Day Saints, and several conservative fundamentalist and evangelical groups (Carlson, 1994; D'Antonio, 1994).
Regardless of the formal religious positions on sexual activity and control of fertility, substantial variation in practice occurs among those belonging to specific religious groups. The most dramatic example is the disparity between the position of the Catholic Church and most of its American members regarding contraceptive use. Despite the Church's clear stand against artificial means of birth control, most Catholic women and couples in the United States use a wide variety of contraceptive methods; 75 percent of white Catholic couples practice contraception, and among those couples, 63 percent use sterilization or oral contraceptives (Goldscheider and Mosher, 1991). Not surprisingly, the major predictor of personal practice is the degree of "religiosity," that is, the degree to which religion is seen as important and to which individuals observe other aspects of their religion (D'Antonio, 1994).
The considerable diversity of opinion among organized religions and the considerable diversity of personal practice among the membership of these religions, do not, by themselves, explain the vehemence of the current political debate on abortion and family values. The major change over the past decade has been the emphasis on conservative forms of family values and a coalescence of Catholics and the conservative elements within many Protestant denominations into politically active groups. Although certainly initiated among Roman Catholics, this movement now includes a large number of conservative Protestants who share a common vision of a threat to traditional family values. Furthermore, although the National Conference of Catholic Bishops has certainly played a seminal role in bringing its resources to political activity, evangelical Protestant groups such as the Moral Majority are equally committed and also bring substantial resources (Carlson, 1994).
Even though people and financing are important elements in attaining political power, another element also contributes to the current political climate. Blendon and colleagues (1993) report that the majority of Americans support the availability of abortion, but they do so conditionally and do not consider it their most important political issue. By contrast, those who strongly oppose abortion view it as a top priority and often vote for candidates on the basis of their expressed positions on abortion. In exploring this phenomenon more carefully, Blendon and colleagues (1993) found that there is no evidence that groups who strongly support abortion vote with the same single-issue orientation as do those who strongly oppose abortion. They also found that the tendency to view political issues through the lens of abortion is directly related to an individual's participation in his or her religion (or to their degree of "religiosity"). One noteworthy aspect of the continuing opposition to abortion is that some of those