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His fellow Democrats want him to resign because he's pro-life, but Aaron Oliver won't budge – Catholic World Report


Aaron Oliver thinks it's possible to be pro-life and a loyal Democrat. But party leaders want him to resign. / Courtesy of Aaron Oliver

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 2, 2022 / 07:30 am (CNA).
His fellow Democrats call him a traitor (and worse) and the leaders of his party have pressured him to resign.
What has Aaron “A.J.” Oliver, the Democratic municipal chairman in his New Jersey hometown, done to deserve such scorn?
He’s pro-life.
Never mind that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and other prominent Democratic leaders have professed tolerance for pro-life Democrats.
Or that Oliver, an Episcopal priest and New Jersey Army National Guard chaplain, says he's a faithful Democrat soldier in every other respect.
“I'm a loyal Democrat, a lifetime Democrat,” he told CNA. “Many of us think that there’s not an inconsistency with being pro-life and a Democrat. We think the party should be the open tent that it claims to be.”
The flaps of the tent appear to be drawn tight in New Jersey when it comes to abortion, however, Oliver has found, even though Pelosi and other Democratic leaders insist there’s no litmus test on abortion. Pelosi famously cited her own “devout Catholic family” in 2017 as the reason for her openness to Democrats who don’t share her staunch support of abortion rights.
“Most of those people — my family, extended family — are not pro-choice,” she said. “You think I’m kicking them out of the Democratic Party?”
Democratic leaders in the Garden State have taken a different approach with Oliver.
A party ‘betrayal’?
The 41-year-old Morristown resident was elected to a two-year term in June as chairman of the New Jersey suburb’s municipal Democratic committee, an unpaid position. The committee's chief role is to recruit and support strong Democratic candidates, Oliver said.
Until very recently, party leaders saw Oliver as that kind of candidate, having initially supported his run in 2021 for the Morris County Board of Commissioners, a GOP stronghold for many years.
His ultimately unsuccessful bid ran into trouble after a video surfaced of him at an event sponsored by Democrats for Life of America (DFLA), an organization that opposes abortion and promotes pro-life Democratic candidates. A public interest group called NJ11th for Change swiftly retracted its endorsement less than a week before the Nov. 2 election.
“Given the revelation that Oliver’s position is far removed from what most of us would consider ‘pro-woman’ or ‘feminist,’ we feel strongly that continuing to endorse this candidate would be a betrayal of our members’ values, which are and have always been overwhelmingly pro-choice,” the group’s co-executive directors said at the time.
In December, the Morris County Democratic Committee called on Oliver to resign his municipal post. The county organization said it was its “duty to choose representatives and party leaders who will support, protect and expand equitable and quality access to reproductive rights in New Jersey and help make that a reality for every American.” More recently, the committee Oliver chairs issued a "no confidence" vote against him.
But Oliver is standing firm. He says party leaders were aware of his pro-life views prior to his run for commission and still thought he'd be good candidate, "especially since the county government doesn't vote on legislation involving abortion," he added. Yet know they want him out as Morristown chairman.
“I don’t think that’s a sufficient reason to resign, I really don’t,” he said. 
“And to be honest with you, many of us are sick and tired of being bullied and marginalized for a matter of conscience like this, for defending a consistent life ethic … and we don’t want to take it anymore.”
Embracing a 'Whole Life' approach
Oliver's story illustrates not only the hardened abortion stance of the Democratic Party but also the diversity of the pro-life movement.
Oliver, who is gay and a staunch Democrat, witnessed that heterogeneity himself when he attended a Democrats for Life rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1 during oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization abortion case. Among those advocating for the unborn that day were secularists, atheists, feminists, and members of the LGBTQ community.
"It's not just religious people that are pro-life," Oliver said. "I think that the pro-life movement is growing. It's diverse in a lot of ways, I mean ethnically, politically, as far as age, religion. I was happy to see that."
Nor is the pro-life movement strictly focused on abortion, he added. Democrats for Life's own "Whole Life" philosophy embraces a range of issues, he noted.
"We talk about issues like euthanasia, and capital punishment, and protecting women — providing real choice for them when it comes to pregnancy support (and) reducing the maternity mortality rate," he said. "And our (DFLA) movement is actually led by women, so the false dichotomy, (that) it's a men versus women thing, I think is kind of a false narrative."
Extreme NJ bill a ‘turning point’
Faith and service have been running themes in Oliver’s life.
Raised in a Methodist family, he says his brother and several other relatives served in the military. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, he enlisted in the New Jersey Army National Guard in 2003, joining an infantry unit. Meanwhile, his spiritual journey led him to join the Orthodox Church, and after discerning a vocation, he became an Orthodox priest and a U.S. Army chaplain.
The journey wasn't over. He left the Orthodox Church and was accepted as an Episcopal priest in 2012. A couple of years later he went on active duty with the Army for five years, spending some of that time overseas. He rejoined the National Guard as a chaplain and captain in 2020.
He says his pro-life position evolved over time.
“I certainly haven’t reached this point overnight,” Oliver told CNA. “I’ve always had pro-life inklings … I’ve always wanted to look out for the vulnerable and the marginalized. And I started to see unborn children as being vulnerable and marginalized, and I started asking more questions, like, ‘Why aren't we standing up for them and supporting them?’”
Those questions ultimately led him to Democrats for Life of America, which states on its website that "every human being is worthy of dignity and respect, from fertilization to natural death."
But Oliver says the real turning point for him politically was Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s effort to pass the New Jersey Reproductive Freedom Act.
Crafted as a hedge against the possible decision in the Dobbs case that would overturn the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide, the legislation would codify an unrestricted right to abortion up to the moment of birth, while removing the state’s longstanding conscience protection for medical professionals who object to abortion.
Additionally, the act authorizes non-physicians to perform certain abortions, and requires insurers to cover abortions with no out-of-pocked costs. It also mandates an annual allocation of state taxpayer funds to Planned Parenthood.
“Those provisions terrified me, honestly,” Oliver said. “I started talking to DFLA and we started a movement to protest it, which I think was pretty effective.” After enough Democrats were persuaded the legislation was too extreme, the legislation stalled in the state's legislature last year, though Murphy, a Catholic, is pushing to get it passed in 2022.
Oliver said the extreme nature of the legislation “galvanized” his thinking on the aborti

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His fellow Democrats want him to resign because he's pro-life, but Aaron Oliver won't budge

Aaron Oliver thinks it's possible to be pro-life and a loyal Democrat. But party leaders want him to resign. / Courtesy of Aaron OliverWashington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 2, 2022 / 07:30 am (CNA).His fellow Democrats call him a traitor (and worse) and the leaders of his party have pressured him to resign.What has Aaron "A.J." Oliver, the Democratic municipal chairman in his New Jersey hometown, done to deserve such scorn?He's pro-life.Never mind that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and other prominent Democratic leaders have professed tolerance for pro-life Democrats.Or that Oliver, an Episcopal priest and New Jersey Army National Guard chaplain, says he's a faithful Democrat soldier in every other respect."I'm a loyal Democrat, a lifetime Democrat," he told CNA. "Many of us think that there's not an inconsistency with being pro-life and a Democrat. We think the party should be the open tent that it claims to be."The flaps of the tent appear to be drawn tig...

Jersey , Illinois , United-states , New-jersey , Morris-county , Washington , America , American , Aaron-oliver , Dan-lipinski , Phil-murphy , Aaronaj-oliver ,

Morris County Commissioner Candidate Home For Memorial Day Following Deployment to Protect Nation's Capital

Morris County Commissioner Candidate Home For Memorial Day Following Deployment to Protect Nation’s Capital The Morris County Democratic Committee is proud to welcome back home to Morris County CH (CPT) Aaron Oliver, just in time for the Memorial Day weekend. CH (CPT) Aaron Oliver was deployed with the New Jersey Army National Guard (NJARNG) to[...]

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