Mark Houck, a pro-life Catholic activist who faced up to 11 years in prison for allegedly breaking a federal law which prohibits people from blocking access to abortion clinics, has been acquitted of all charges following a week-long trial.
Houck is Catholic pro-life activist who leads a non-profit organization that provides counseling to women outside abortion clinics in Philadelphia. The Department of Justice claimed that the assault of an abortion escort twice was motivated by his volunteer role at the reproductive health care clinic.
U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Romero commented on the trial in a Department of Justice press release, emphasizing that “Assault is always a serious offense, and under the FACE Act, if the victim is targeted because of their association with a reproductive healthcare clinic, it is a federal crime.” She continued, “Our Office and the Department of Justice are committed to prosecuting crimes which threaten the safety and rights of all individuals.”
The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act prohibits individuals from engaging in any activity that harms, intimidates, or interferes with someone’s access to reproductive health care services. Violations of the FACE Act may result in federal criminal charges.
Peter Breen, vice president of the Thomas More Society, asserted in an interview with Fox News that the Department of Justice is sending a message through this trial: “Don’t mess with us.” He continued, “They want to intimidate – they want to cause good people like Mark to stop praying and counseling at the abortion clinics of our country. And that’s not going to happen.”
Nearly a year after the incident, the Biden administration revived the case against Houck, which had been thrown out of state court. According to Houck’s attorney, John Breen, some 20 FBI agents raided his client’s home when they arrested him, treating him “as if he was a drug lord or a mafia boss.”
“If he was truly a danger to the community, they wouldn’t have waited a year to prosecute,” Breen said. “Serious questions need to be asked of the attorney general. What was he thinking? Why did they do this obscene show of force against a peaceful pillar of the community?”
Houck pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, testifying in court that he had two altercations with Bruce Love, a Planned Parenthood clinic escort, on the day of the incident. According to Catholic News Agency, Houck was counseling two women who had left Planned Parenthood when Love chased him for about 100 feet. Houck said that the escort made contact with him and he reflexively elbowed Love in the hip in self-defense. Life News reported that the prosecution argued that Houck elbowed Love unprovoked due to his status as a clinic escort.