RNC Q&A: Joe Starrs, American Life League

In a polarized New York City where many feel the only battle is between Republican incumbent George Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry, some non-partisan groups are in town to get their own message across.

In a polarized New York City where many feel the only battle is between Republican incumbent George Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry, some non-partisan groups are in town to get their own message across.

Joe Starrs, the director of American Life League's crusade for the defense of the Catholic church, represents one of these groups. The ALL has run an advertisement highlighting key pro-choice politicians on both sides, including Kerry, Californian governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New York governor George Pataki. He talked to PRWeek.com about cutting through the political noise surrounding the convention. Q. What is your message? A. If you want to be a Catholic, you can't support abortion - the killing of children. It doesn't matter if you're Republican or Democrat. I think a reason why we're effective is that willing to criticize Republicans. We're not here to do a "rah-rah-rah" for George Bush. We're here to get the Republican party to stay pro-life. Q. You held a demonstration last night at the Stand-Up for Choice-Big Tent Republicans for Choice Extravaganza. How did that go? A. The demonstration was outside the Beacon Theatre. It was a celebrity event sponsored by Planned Parenthood. We held up our signs, quietly prayed, and engaged some of the people standing in line to the best that we could. For some reason, they were in line for quite a bit. So we had over two hours almost to talk to the people. For the most part, they didn't seem like a happy group. Q. Tonight, you're demonstrating at the Republicans for Choice gala. A. That's the more important event. This is a gathering of pro-choice Republicans whose sole aim is getting the pro-life plank yanked from the platform. They're honoring Gerald and Betty Ford, and Governor Pataki is a sponsor of the event. This particular event tonight is particularly worrisome. We want to shine the light of truth on what's going on. Q. Have you done any media outreach? A. We've had a good opportunity to talk to the print, radio, and television. We've had a number of interviews in all three forms of media. The reporters are looking for a different angle than the scripted events that are happening on the floor of the convention. There's a lot happening outside [the convention] that make a good story. And we're part of that potpourri of interesting people out there. Q. With the media's focus on leftist protests and subsequent arrests, do you have difficulty attracting attention? A. There's no need to get violent or be confrontational. The power of our message is in its simplicity and in the truth of what we say. Q. The media and Democrats have highlighted how a number of the RNC speakers have different ideals than the Bush platform, especially when it comes to the pro-life-pro-choice debate. Does this make your message even more important? A. Yes. There is an element within the Republican Party that wants to put pro-lifers at the back of the bush and the moderates forward. That's a mistake because pro-lifers are one of the strongest and staunchest allies. It should be a party of principle and a party of convenience. Q. Outside of your platform, what do you hope the public gleans from your outreach this week? A. I hope that we're able to get an honest and fair hearing in the media. I hope the message gets out that we're not a radical, fringe group, but just standing up for a very important constituency - the unborn.

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