Catholic pro-life activist Mark Houck was found not guilty Monday of federal charges alleging he violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.
A Pennsylvania federal grand jury indicted Houck for allegations that he assaulted an abortion clinic volunteer, Bruce Love, in Philadelphia in September 2022. Federal officials claimed that Houck violated the FACE Act by using “force with the intent to injure, intimidate, and interfere with anyone because that person is a provider of reproductive health care.”
Following a jury deadlock that delayed its decision, Houck was acquitted of both charges of violations of the FACE Act.
“This is a win not just for the pro-life movement and Mark but for free speech and every single American,” 40 Days for Life’s general counsel, Matt Britton, said in a statement provided to the Daily Caller. “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.” (RELATED: Man Reportedly Sets Fire To Planned Parenthood Clinic After Girlfriend Aborts Pregnancy)
“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.”
At least 15 agents stormed Houck’s home while pointing their weapons at the 48-year-old, his wife and seven children in October, according to his wife. His children allegedly begged the agents not to arrest their father as the FBI surrounded the house in the early morning hours.
Today, a jury will decide the fate of a Catholic father of 7 who was raided by armed FBI agents for allegedly violating the FACE Act.
— Sarah Weaver 💍 (@SarahHopeWeaver) January 30, 2023
Houck, who pleaded not guilty to the charges in September, contends he was defending his 12-year-old son from verbal harassment and pushed away Love in the process, the Catholic News Agency reported. Legal counsel for 40 Days for Life, where Mark Houck participates, tells the Daily Caller that the FACE Act does not apply to volunteer escorts such as Love and that on both occasions leading to the charges Love approached Houck down the block from the abortion facility, not outside the abortion clinic. In the second incident, legal counsel says the altercation was not about abortion, as required for a FACE violation, but Love’s abusive behavior towards Houck’s 12-year-old son.
Some attorneys have expressed concern that the Biden administration is “weaponizing” the FACE Act to go after pro-life Americans.
“The left is out for blood, and Biden’s base is demanding prosecutions and the DOJ is providing them,” Roger Severino, who served as an attorney at the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights division, told the Caller in October.
The DOJ charged 11 pro-life activists with FACE in October. Seven are facing up to 11 years in prison and $350,000 in fines, and five are facing a year in prison and fines up to $10,000.