Pro-life activist Mark Houck was found not guilty on Monday on federal assault charges brought by Joe Biden’s Department of Justice.
Houck was charged with two counts of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE Act) and faced 11 years in federal prison if he had been found guilty.
The DOJ pressed charges against Houck, a 48-year-old father of seven, even though local authorities had declined to press charges after Houck pushed a Planned Parenthood escort who had been verbally harassing Houck's 12-year-old son.
“U.S. District Judge Gerald Pappert himself raised the possibility that the case should never have been brought to trial, asking the prosecution Thursday whether the federal FACE Act didn’t ‘seem to be stretched a little thin here.' ”
Attorney General Merrick Garland's DOJ sent a squad of FBI agents to Houcks' home on Sept. 23, 2022. Houck was arrested at gunpoint in front of his wife and children.
The DOJ accused Houck of violating the FACE Act, a 1993 law created to prosecute crimes at pro-life pregnancy centers that has “been used almost exclusively against pro-life activists,” Catholic News Agency's Joe Bukuras notes. The FACE Act outlaws “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.”
Houck said he pushed the escort, 73-year-old Bruce Love, because he was verbally harassing his 12-year-old son as he was sidewalk counseling outside an abortion clinic.
According to Bukuras, supporters of Houck “cried and hugged one another” after the verdict was read in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.
Peter Breen, Thomas More Society Executive Vice President and Head of Litigation celebrated the victory and condemned the Biden administration’s “intimidation against pro-life people.”
“We are, of course, thrilled with the outcome. Mark and his family are now free of the cloud that the Biden administration threw upon them. We took on Goliath — the full might of the United States government — and won,” Breen said. “The jury saw through and rejected the prosecution’s discriminatory case, which was harassment from day one. This is a win for Mark and the entire pro-life movement. The Biden Department of Justice’s intimidation against pro-life people and people of faith has been put in its place.”
40 Days for Life’s General Counsel Matt Britton said the case is “not just a win for the pro-life movement and Mark, but for free speech and every single American.”
“The federal government trumped up charges months after a local case had been dismissed. If the feds had prevailed, every argument in front of every abortion facility, no matter the subject, could result in federal charges,” Britton said. “The feds tried to make a point that they would not tolerate pro-life speech and tried to make Mark an example that they would charge and intimidate pro-lifers, all while claiming that they represent democracy and free speech. But not today. The system worked, and justice prevailed.”