A pro-life advocate who was arrested last year for defending his son outside an abortion clinic was acquitted by jury on Monday.
Mark Houck, a Catholic father of seven, was arrested in September for allegedly violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which prohibits blocking a person from accessing reproductive services.
As previously reported by The Lion, Houck and his 12-year-old son were sidewalk counseling outside an abortion clinic when they were verbally harassed by a clinic volunteer. The man refused to stop, prompting Houck to push him away from his son.
Months later, the federal government responded with what some experts described as a flimsy legal argument and a disproportionate show of force.
Houck’s wife, Ryan-Marie, told the Catholic News Agency (CNA) that the FBI raided their home at dawn with a SWAT team.
“They said they were going to break in if he didn’t open [the door],” she recalled. “And then they had about five guns pointed at my husband, myself, and basically at my kids.”
Houck’s attorney pointed the finger at President Biden and the Department of Justice.
“The message from the Biden Department of Justice is pure intimidation against pro-life people and people of faith,” said Peter Breen, senior counsel of the Thomas More Society. “Why in the world would you send this phalanx of officers heavily armed to this family’s home, violate the sanctity of their home, frighten their children? Why would you do that, other than just to send a message?”
However, the FBI denied some of the allegations.
“The number of personnel and vehicles widely reported as being on scene Friday is an overstatement,” said FBI Pennsylvania, Fox News reported. “The tactics used by FBI personnel were professional, in line with standard practices, and intended to ensure the safety of everyone present in and outside the residence.”
When the trial began last week, people rallied outside the courthouse, singing hymns and expressing their support for Houck and the pro-life cause.
Rally for Mark Houck outside the federal court house: pic.twitter.com/OyxIRIptI4
— Joe Bukuras (@JoeBukuras) January 24, 2023
Houck’s acquittal comes just six days after his trial began.
“We are, of course, thrilled with the outcome,” said Breen. “Mark and his family are now free of the cloud that the Biden administration threw upon them.
“This is a win for Mark and the entire pro-life movement,” he continued. “The Biden Department of Justice’s intimidation against pro-life people and people of faith has been put in its place.”
Local media asked Houck if he intends to return to sidewalk counseling.
“I’m ready to go back out,” Houck said. “Just happy to continue the mission, you know, the mission goes on. That’s the whole point of this, you know, we wanted this to really help the pro-life movement.”