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World leaders are preparing for the U.N. conference on population in Cairo this September, mindful of President Clinton’s reversal of the 1984 Reagan/Bush ban on foreign aid for family planning. But the Vatican is warning that outside family planning services will lead to Westernization–a message tailored to fundamentalist Islamic leaders, whose allegiance with Catholic countries helped defeat a section in the 1992 Earth Summit document that promoted family planning (“Still Ticking,” March/April 1993). Vatican envoy Monsignor Diarmuid Martin told Arab delegations last spring that he supported their wish to “respond to the challenges of the modern world in a way which does not damage what is precious in those traditions” important to Arab culture, including “the special role of women.” Then, two months later, delegates from Morocco and Iraq expressed concern that the Cairo conference will conflict with their cultural traditions. Population and reproductive rights organizations retorted that “culture and tradition” do not justify practices that jeopardize women’s health and freedom. But the Vatican seems to be winning its campaign. As one member of the U.S. delegation puts it, “A hierarchy of celibate men will control the rest of the world’s access to birth control.”

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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