BREAKING: Jury finds pro-lifer Mark Houck NOT GUILTY on FACE Act charges

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UPDATE: Pro-life leader Mark Houck was acquitted by a Philadelphia jury today on two federal charges of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.

During the trial, which started last week in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania, the prosecution argued that Houck had two altercations with a Planned Parenthood escort named Bruce Love, specifically because the escort was in the process of providing reproductive healthcare services. The charges carried a maximum sentence of 11 years in prison.

Houck’s legal team, led by the Thomas More Society, countered that the conflict had nothing to do with abortion and had been initiated by Love, 72, arguing that he had approached Houck’s 12-year-old son and berated and harassed him. Houck contended that he was simply trying to protect his son. Both Houck and his son, Mark Jr., now 14, took the stand and testified. The defense also argued that the FACE Act is only applicable to patients and medical professionals, not escorts.

In addition, the CEO of Planned Parenthood, when cross-examined by the defense team, admitted on the stand that Love had been cited on several occasions for inappropriately initiating contact with pro-life protesters.

Thomas More Society Executive Vice President & Head of Litigation Peter Breen responded to the verdict by stating:

“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. 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.”

At a press conference after the verdict, Houck talked about his gratitude to God, his family, his legal team, and his supporters.


ORIGINAL STORY

{Published January 24, 2013} Jury selection in the criminal trial of pro-life leader Mark Houck began today in Philadelphia, just months after his family home was raided by a large team of gun-wielding FBI agents.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania will start jury selection today in the trial of Houck on charges that he violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. The charges arise from an alleged assault against an abortion escort.

On October 23, 2021, Houck, a Catholic pro-life advocate, was sidewalk counseling near an abortion clinic in Pennsylvania when he allegedly shoved Bruce Love, who was working as an abortion escort. Police were called but did not press charges. Love did press charges, but after failing to show up to court twice, the charges were dropped by a local court. Days after that, the FBI informed Houck that they were investigating him for violations of the FACE Act.

The FACE Act prohibits anyone from stopping patients and staff from entering an abortion clinic or a crisis pregnancy center. Thomas More Society, Houck’s legal representative, claims that he did not violate the law. Houck claims that when he shoved Love, it was only because Love approached Houck’s 12-year-old son and began shouting obscene things at him. The attorneys argue that not only did Love initiate the incident but that the FACE Act doesn’t extend to abortion escorts.

Days ago, his lawyers released evidence that they say shows the FACE Act was never intended to include abortion escorts. In a hearing last week, they produced statements from former Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who sponsored the FACE Act, and former Sen. David Durenburger, R-Minn., discussing an amendment to the FACE Act that they implemented.

Here is a transcript of that discussion.

Mr. DURENBERGER. By defining ‘aggrieved person’ in this way, was it your intention to exclude clinic escorts or so-called clinic defenders?

Mr. KENNEDY. That is correct. Demonstrators, clinic defenders, escorts, and other persons not involved in obtaining or providing services in the facility may not bring such a cause of action.

Durenberger then reiterated that escorts are not covered under the FACE Act (139 Cong. Rec. S15686):

“The bill, as currently drafted before us, allows legal relief only to clinic patients and personnel. And this is the critical, if you will – not the only, but the critical – change that has been agreed to by the proponents of this legislation and by the Senator from Massachusetts. We have recognized that Federal law should be extended narrowly to protect only those who were actually attempting to obtain or provide medical or counseling services. It does not protect the escorts.”

Peter Breen, executive vice president and head of litigation for Thomas More Society, explained,

“The FACE Act was never intended to cover disputes between advocates on the public sidewalks outside of our nation’s abortion clinics. This new evidence shows clearly that Congress intended to limit the FACE Act to patients and staff working in the clinic, and not to take sides between pro-life and pro-choice counselors and escorts on the sidewalk. The Biden Department of Justice’s prosecution of Mark Houck is pure harassment, meant solely to intimidate our nation’s pro-life sidewalk counselors who provide vital resources to help pregnant women at risk for abortion.”

Breen said that Houck will testify, as well as his son. He called it “the biggest criminal case in the pro-life movement in my memory.”

The DOJ has ramped up its use of the FACE Act against pro-life counselors, arresting multiple people over the last year. Meanwhile, the DOJ has still not made a single arrest in the investigations of hundreds of assaults on churches and crisis pregnancy centers.

Arresting a person over a year after allegedly shoving a person with a team of FBI agents wielding guns seems over the top, and that’s because it’s supposed to be. This arrest is not an arrest because Houck did anything worthy of an early morning armed raid on a family home filled with seven young children. The force shown was meant to send a message.

It is important to remember that Houck’s legal representation had contacted the DOJ to tell them that their client would voluntarily appear in court. No arrest was even necessary, much less one so authoritarian. The DOJ doesn’t seem to have any intention of upholding the law, just using it as a political tool to target pro-lifers.

The FBI hasn’t simply lost the public’s trust; they appear to have intentionally morphed into a state actor in order to spread fear and intimidation among the general population.

Christians must hope and pray that Houck wins this case and a message is sent to the Justice Department and the FBI that the political weaponization of justice will not be permitted in a free country.

As the Bible commands those in positions of authority in Leviticus 19:15:

“‘You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.’”


Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.