“Not guilty on all counts.” That was the verdict for Mark Houck, the Catholic pro-life father of seven, who the Department of Justice (DOJ) had charged with a crime for allegedly violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE Act).
At a press conference following the verdict, Houck told reporters that he was feeling relieved and overjoyed at the ruling.
“I’m so grateful for the men that have surrounded me, the Thomas More Society – the best lawyers in Philadelphia – and for my family,” Houck said. “I’m George Bailey today,” he quipped.
Houck, his family, and supporters prayed outside the courthouse.
Mark Houck, his family, and supporters pray after he is found not guilty on FACE Act charges. pic.twitter.com/OoPMvx6tIP
— Joe Bukuras (@JoeBukuras) January 30, 2023
Houck was represented in court pro bono by lawyers with the Thomas More Society.
“We are, of course, thrilled with the outcome,” said Peter Breen, Thomas More Society Executive Vice President & Head of Litigation, in a statement following the ruling.
You can watch Houck’s post-verdict press conference here:
Let’s go over the facts of Mark Houck’s case.
In October 2021, Houck and his 12-year-old son were outside an abortion clinic, acting as sidewalk counselors, trying to convince abortion-minded women to choose life for their preborn babies.
That’s when a 72-year-old abortion “escort” (a volunteer or employee of the abortion clinic) began harassing Mark’s son and yelling vulgarities at them. Mark defended his son and pushed the escort away who fell but was unhurt.
The escort then later asked the police and the local district attorney to arrest and punish Mark. They both declined. A Philadelphia municipal court also dismissed a lawsuit the escort had filed against Mark.
Then, nearly a year after the incident, at 7 a.m. on September 23, 2022, two dozen heavily armed FBI SWAT members showed up at the Houck family’s front door, having arrived at their house in 15 vehicles.
According to Houck’s wife, “They said they were going to break in if he didn’t open it. And then they had about five guns pointed at my husband, myself, and basically at my kids.”
“They were pointing their weapons. They came in as if they were expecting confrontation,” she added.
The FBI arrested Mark and the Department of Justice (DOJ) charged him with violating the FACE Act, which was passed in 1994 to prohibit the threat of or use of force against anyone for “obtaining or providing reproductive health services.”
If Mark had been found guilty of violating the Act, he could have faced up to 11 years in prison and a $350,000 fine.
No wonder he felt relieved after the “not guilty” verdict.
In his statement following the ruling, Breen added:
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. 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.
Praise God that Houck has been declared innocent. Justice was done in his case.
But make no mistake, the FBI and DOJ have been weaponized to intimidate pro-life Americans.
Eleven more pro-life supporters have been charged by the DOJ with violating the FACE Act. One of those individuals is 73-year-old Chester Gallagher. The FBI, with guns drawn, raided his home on October 5, 2022.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by these intimidation tactics. The same day that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a statement saying that the DOJ “strongly disagrees with the Court’s decision.”
The attorney general then all but said he would use the FACE Act to target pro-life Americans:
The Justice Department will work tirelessly to protect and advance reproductive freedom. Under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, the Department will continue to protect healthcare providers and individuals seeking reproductive health services.
He concluded: “The Justice Department will use every tool at our disposal to protect reproductive freedom.”
It’s frightening when the law enforcement arm of the federal government picks a side in the abortion debate, opting to promote abortion and intimidate pro-life supporters.
Since Attorney General Garland’s statement, the DOJ has certainly carried out his aim – and innocent pro-life Americans are the ones paying the price.
The case is United States of America v. Mark Houck.
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Photo and Video from the Thomas More Society.