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Wray, Garland Throw Philly FBI Under the Bus in Houck Arrest

Confronted with tough questions about armed agents making an early-morning show of force at an unarmed pro-lifer’s house, America’s top law enforcement officials pushed the blame onto the Philadelphia office of the FBI.

At issue was the decision to send armed, shield-wielding federal agents, brandishing semi-automatic rifles, to arrest Bucks County pro-life activist Mark Houck. Houck was charged with allegedly violating the federal Freedom to Access Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act after a minor scuffle with a clinic escort. Local authorities declined to charge him over the incident, and his attorneys had already offered to bring in the father of seven to turn himself in.

Instead, the Biden administration’s Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Merrick Garland, executed an early-morning raid on his home to take Houck into custody.

When his case went to trial, it took a Philadelphia jury just an hour to acquit Houck of all charges.

Garland was grilled about the DOJ’s actions by Republican senators on Wednesday. Rather than explaining the rationale for bringing the case in the first place, or offering a defense of using armed agents for the arrest, Garland pushed the responsibility onto the local FBI.

Despite photos showing the armed agents, Garland insisted the Senators’ description of events “didn’t match” the information he was given by the local FBI. When asked how their actions matched the guidelines of the DOJ — which call for a “reasonable” use of force in each situation — he again deferred to the local agents.

“They made decisions on the ground about what is safest and easiest,” Garland said.

Senators found his answers less than satisfactory.

“In the early morning, Mrs. Houck said the children were screaming. He offered to turn himself in. And this is who you go to terrorize?” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.)

“You use an unbelievable show of force with guns –liberals usually decry long guns and assault-style weapons. We’re supposed to hate long guns.  You’re happy to deploy them against Catholics and innocent children, and then you haul them into court. And a jury acquits him in one hour.  I just suggest to you that that is a disgraceful performance by your justice department and a disgraceful use of resources.”

Carrie Adamowski, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia FBI, defended the level of force used in the Houck case. “Extensive planning takes place prior to the service of any federal warrant. The FBI then employs the personnel and tactics deemed necessary to effect a safe arrest or search.

“While it’s the FBI’s standard practice not to discuss such operational specifics, we can say that the number of personnel and vehicles widely reported as being on scene is an overstatement, and 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.”

Houck told DVJournal the raid on his house remains fresh in his mind.

A judge had found he was not a flight risk, had no criminal history, and he was released on his own recognizance the same day as his arrest, Houck said. And yet, “they pointed M-16s at my wife and children.”

FBI agents shackled Houck to a table for six or seven hours, he said.

“It’s not normal to show up without a warrant,” Houck said. “It’s not normal for them not to announce ‘FBI’ and point guns at babies and little children.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray also faced questions about the Houck arrest, during a Tuesday interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier. Asked about the significant show of force, Wray also pushed the responsibility onto the local agents.

“Those decisions are made as they should be by the commanders on the ground in the field office who have the expertise about when to conduct operations safely and securely for the safety of everybody involved. And to my knowledge, those processes were all followed in this case,” Wray answered.

Houck said he believes his treatment, from arrest to trial, was not a mistake by local FBI officials.

“Obviously, Director Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland told the DOJ to pursue people like me,” Houck said.


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Bucks County Pro-Life Activist Acquitted of Federal Charges

Bucks County pro-life activist Mark Houck was acquitted of all charges by a jury in federal court in Philadelphia on Monday afternoon.

Houck, 48, had been charged with violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act for incidents on Oct. 13, 2021, where he pushed a volunteer escort at a Planned Parenthood clinic on Locust Street in Philadelphia. The escort, who had been confronting Houck’s 12-year-old son, Mark Jr., was not seriously injured. Philadelphia courts declined to prosecute Houck, but after Roe v. Wade was overturned about a year later, the U.S. Department of Justice brought charges.

“We are, of course, thrilled with the outcome,” said Peter Breen, Thomas More Society executive vice president and head of litigation who helped represent the Bucks County father of seven. “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.”

Houck had faced up to 11 years in prison if convicted.

After the verdict, Houck thanked his family and supporters “all over the world,” including the financial support that he received.

“How do you not feel the blessing of that?” he asked. And he thanked the lawyers from the Thomas More Society, along with local defense attorney Brian McMonagle

The circumstances of the case raised questions about possible political motives behind the Biden administration’s decision to prosecute. The judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Gerald Pappert, asked during the trial if the FACE Act wasn’t “being stretched a little thin here.”

The prosecutors declined to comment after the verdict.

Before the trial began, Breen noted the federal government’s decision to swarm Houck’s home and make a high-profile arrest rather than send notice that he needed to turn himself in.

“Think about that. Twenty-five FBI agents go to his home as if he were somehow a danger,” said Breen, who added the lawyers had offered to bring Houck in “at no cost to the U.S. taxpayer.”

“It’s clear that intimidation is one of the tactics being used by the federal government,” said Breen. “And I can tell you that I received calls from sidewalk counselors that were intimidated. They’re wondering, ‘Am I going to be next?’”

Christine Flowers, a Philadelphia pro-life commentator and an attorney,  shared those concerns.

“While Houck’s attorneys deserve a great deal of praise for their exceptional advocacy, I think the most important takeaway from this victory is that Americans can detect when a prosecution is being waged for political reasons and not because there is a legitimate cause of action. The Biden administration has been sent a very clear message: stop trying to crush the pro-life movement under the guise of protecting women’s access to healthcare,” said Flowers.

“As a lawyer, I am always deeply gratified when I see the justice system work as it was designed to work: Protect the innocent and convict the guilty. With the acquittal of Mark Houck, it is clear that the jurors who heard this case understood that essential principle.”

The Biden Justice Department has brought several FACE Act cases against pro-life activists. But now under scrutiny by the Republican U.S. House of Representatives, it recently charged two pro-choice activists for allegedly vandalizing pro-life pregnancy centers.

In dramatic testimony on Friday, Houck, a Catholic, said clinic escort Bruce Love had cursed at him and his son and baited him with remarks about pedophile priests and masturbation.

Mark Jr., now 14, testified Love stood within feet of him and told him that his father was “a bad person.”

Houck, who runs a pro-life ministry called The King’s Men, spends several hours every week in front of that clinic doing sidewalk counseling to deter women from having abortions. He testified that he had been doing this for years, knew the rules, and never blocked a clinic entrance.

During his closing argument, defense attorney Brian McMonagle argued the case was about Houck’s First Amendment rights to free speech, religion, and assembly.

Many supporters had packed the courtroom in the trial before Judge Gerald Pappert. Several held rosaries as they listened intently to testimony and arguments in the case. They also held prayerful protests outside the courthouse and outside the U.S. Attorney’s Office. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

Pastor William Devlin, a fellow pro-life activist and Houck’s friend, led supporters in prayer and singing for Houck, and spoke at the protests.

Devlin said he believed God heard their prayers.

“We thank God that Mark has been exonerated,” said Devlin. “That the jury understood the decision and Mark Houck was found not guilty. It was the result of persistent prayer and worship and we thank Jesus for allowing the not guilty verdict.”

Breen said, “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.”


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FLOWERS: Activist Justice Department Loses Pro-Life Case Against Bucks County Dad But We All Win

Mark Houck was acquitted of federal charges, which could have put him in jail for over a decade. He was acquitted of federal charges that would have separated him from his seven children, his wife, and his work on behalf of the unborn. He was acquitted of federal charges lodged by an activist Department of Justice that cherry-picks the targets of its ire, including parents who protest at school board meetings because they refuse to have their children exposed to inappropriate sexual materials.

The fact that he was acquitted is incredibly important. The takeaway from the acquittal is that a jury of regular men and women, selected from a general pool of citizens, was able to see through a political prosecution presented under the guise of protecting women’s access to healthcare.

We in the pro-life movement understand that not everyone, and perhaps not even a majority of people, agrees with our position on abortion. Poll after poll indicates most Americans think abortion should be legal at some level, and an overwhelming majority of those who oppose abortion would still allow for exceptions in the case of rape, incest, or a threat to the mother’s health.

It’s no secret that in championing life at all stages and in all circumstances, we do not reflect the current view on this extremely divisive topic.

But we were told, on Monday afternoon, that we are not alone in believing that the full force of the United States government should not be brought down upon the head of a man who has eschewed violence and instead, has attempted to dissuade women from committing violence against the most innocent of beings. What makes this verdict so powerful is that people who might themselves support abortion rights were unwilling to allow federal law to be used as a weapon against someone whose religious beliefs and moral values compel him to advocate for the unborn.

As an attorney, this gives me hope.

Setting aside the pro-life issue, I can still see how this jury upheld the rule of law. Nothing that was presented as evidence in court sustained the allegations that Houck had used violence to prevent women from accessing abortion. The fact that an elderly man who was spouting expletives at a teenager got shoved was, at most, simple assault (and even that was thrown out at the state level). To elevate a mundane skirmish between a pro-life activist and an abortion clinic escort shows how biased this Department of Justice has become when it deals with hot-button controversies like abortion and parental rights. And a jury said, “no, this time you won’t win.”

The truth is, we are all winners in this case. Even if you support abortion up to the last trimester, and even if you would never raise your voice in prayer before a Planned Parenthood clinic, and even if you are angered by the Dobbs decision overturning Roe last June, you should celebrate the fact that a jury of men and women, like you, spoke truth to the immense power of the federal government and said that they would not allow the laws to be manipulated to send out a partisan message.

Today it was Mark Houck. Tomorrow it could be you. This is an extremely important precedent and an affirmation of the rule of law.


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Deadlocked Jury in Trial for Bucks County Pro-Life Activist to Return Monday

After deliberating for more than two hours, jurors in the trial for pro-life activist Mark Houck were deadlocked as of late Friday afternoon. Federal Judge Gerald Pappert instructed them to return Monday and continue their work.

Houck was charged with two counts of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act nearly a year after the Oct. 13, 2021, incidents. The Bucks County resident could be sentenced to 11 years in prison if convicted.

During dramatic testimony Friday, Houck said he had been sworn at and baited by clinic escort Bruce Love. But when Love began talking to his 12-year-old son, Mark Jr., he lost his cool.

Love allegedly told Houck, “Why don’t you go home and masturbate? Go be with your pedophile priests.”

Houck, 48, runs pro-life nonprofit The King’s Men and said he was familiar with Love, a volunteer escort at the Planned Parent Elizabeth Blackwell Center on Locust Street in Philadelphia and other Planned Parent locations. Houck prays outside the clinic regularly and he does sidewalk counseling with women who come to the center, he said.

Mark Jr., has been accompanying his father to court, and then going to practice at the Philadelphia Boys Choir at 4 p.m. It takes the Houcks about two hours to drive into the city from Kintersville.

Mark Jr. testified Love ran after his father, who had approached two women who had left the center and were across the street. Houck testified that Love came up from behind and got in between him and one of the women, startling him. He said he pushed him.

Then about 45 minutes later, Love came back out and stood within a foot of Houck’s son.

“He said, ‘Your dad is a bad person,” Mark Jr. said. Houck told Love to go back to where he usually stood and not to talk to his son.

When Love continued talking to Mark Jr., Houck pushed the 72-year-old escort, who fell on the sidewalk.

After Mark Jr. stepped down from the witness stand his mother, Ryan-Marie, hugged him. Onlookers packed the courtroom, several holding rosary beads.

Houck, the father of seven children, said that in addition to his work with the nonprofit, he coached youth sports and volunteers for other nonprofits. He said he does the sidewalk counseling out of “a spirit of charity and compassion.”

When defense attorney Brian McMonagle asked if he prevented anyone from going into the abortion clinic, Houck said he had not. But he did talk to women and let them know there was a pregnancy resource center nearby where they could get the help they might need if they chose to keep their babies or put them up for adoption.

When Love started talking to Mark Jr., Houck said he intervened.

“I’m a dad,” said Houck. “I told him to stay away from my son.”

Love told Mark Jr., “’ Your dad is hurting women,’” Houck said. “I told him, ‘You don’t have permission to talk to my son’…I turned and reacted and pushed him.”

Houck was surprised when Love fell. “I pushed Mr. Love because he was harassing my 12-year-old boy.” After Love fell, Houck took his son to a nearby hoagie shop. They then went into a cathedral and prayed. Houck got a text that officers wanted to talk to him, and he went back to the clinic and gave a statement.

However, Houck was not prosecuted in state court and a judge dismissed a private complaint brought by Love. But the Biden administration still chose to make a federal case of the incident.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anita Eve cross-examined Houck, trying to get him to admit that he pushed Love because he was a clinic escort. But Houck repeated that it was because Love was bothering his son.

She accused Houck of telling escorts they will go to a “special place in hell.”

“They’re all collaborating in the evil of abortion,” Houck said, denying that he made that remark. “They’re children of God, and I pray for them.”

Under repeated questioning, Houck said he gets a $ 50-a-week stipend for gas from the Pro-Life Union of Pennsylvania for driving to the clinic from rural Bucks County. She also repeatedly asked him about his nonprofit’s webpage, which he said he posts blogs on but others, including a webmaster, also work on.

Eve pointed out that he had raised more than $400,000. Houck said that money was for his legal defense.

During his closing argument, Department of Justice civil rights trial lawyer Sanjay Patel said the government had proven its case and asked the jury to convict Houck. Houck admitted he had pushed a 72-year-old grandfather twice, said Patel. Houck is younger and larger than Love and should have known that he could hurt him. And an escort is protected under the FACE Act, Patel said. And Houck acted to prevent Love from carrying out his job as a clinic escort, Patel said.

“The government is asking you to hold Mr. Houck responsible,” said Patel. “Don’t let him hide behind his son.”

In his closing, McMonagle said that the government had not proved that Houck pushed Love because he was a clinic escort. Rather it was because Love was harassing his son and refused to stop. And, he said, during her opening, Eve said the prosecution was not political, but McMonagle asked the jury to think for themselves about why it took a year from the incident for the government to bring charges and what had happened in the U.S. during that time.

And while Patel argued that Love was going by the book, McMonagle pointed out the rule book for clinic escorts tells them not to engage with protesters. And an email from a Planned Parenthood official said Love “has been spoken to about our nonengagement policy and he continues to disregard it.”

McMonagle said the heart of the case is the First Amendment and the rights that Houck has to speak, assemble, and practice his religion.

“This case is about a parent’s love for his child,” said McMonagle. “There isn’t any greater love than that.”

He also pointed out that Love gave several versions of the events when talking to the FBI.

“If in fact at the end of the trial, you have more questions than answers, you have reasonable doubt” and must find Houck not guilty, he told the jury.

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Protestors Pray as Jury is Selected for Trial of Bucks County Pro-Life Activist

As lawyers inside Philadelphia’s federal courthouse selected the jury to pass judgment on Mark Houck in his upcoming trial, supporters outside said prayers and offered encouragement for the Bucks County pro-life activist they believe is the victim of a political prosecution.

Houck, 49, of Kintersville in Bucks County, is charged with violating the FACE Act for an altercation with abortion clinic escort Bruce Love outside a Philadelphia facility. According to the indictment Houck “verbally confronted” escort Bruce Love “and forcefully shoved B.L. to the ground” outside the Planned Parenthood Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center on Locust Street in Philadelphia.

Houck could face up to 11 years in prison if convicted.

Evangelical pastor William Devlin led the group of 30 or so protesters reciting the “Our Father” and singing “Amazing Grace.”

The case has national implications regarding whether an escort who volunteers at abortion clinics can be considered an abortion provider. Legal experts who support Houck said the entire case was a stretch of the original law and have suggested the prosecution is motivated more by abortion politics than law enforcement. Those concerns were heightened when federal authorities chose to send some 25 heavily armed FBI agents to arrest Houck at his home as his wife and frightened children looked on.

Houck was released on his own recognizance the same day.

David Walsh

Houck has garnered the support of many in the pro-life community. The Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm, is helping with his defense.

“America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great,” said local pro-life leader Patrick Stanton at the gathering. “And if this kind of thing can happen to a law-abiding father and husband, America is trembling.”

“It’s important for us to stand together,” said Marlene Downing with the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia. “There is a lot of evil rising up. It’s because they feel like they can [act this way] because people who are Christian are not standing for what they should be standing for. And look at you guys out here, standing for the right thing.

Christine Flowers, a Delaware Valley Journal columnist, also spoke to the protesters.

“After a British military victory during World War II Winston Churchill was famously quoted as saying, ‘This is not the end. It’s not the beginning of the end. But it might, perhaps, be the end of the beginning.’ That’s the way I felt when Roe was overturned last year. Because I knew the battle was just beginning in the states and the increasing hysteria of abortion rights supporters led me to believe we were in for an onslaught. What is happening with Mark Houck is emblematic of that. And we need to be prepared and vigilant.”

Malvern resident David Walsh who was protesting said, “I’m here to support Mark Houck and his family and pray for the successful relief of these charges and pray the federal government steps up in the Department of Justice and does what they should be doing (to bring charges against those vandalizing pro-life maternity centers and churches).”

Walsh often does sidewalk counseling for pregnant women outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in West Chester. Houck had been a sidewalk counselor for many years before his arrest.

Ted Meehan of Newtown Square said he had been involved in the pro-life movement for 40 years.

“I’m here because of the injustice of what’s going on to Mark Houck and what was done,” said Meehan. “And compare that to the ongoing, almost daily Churches and pro-life centers…It’s a grotesque double standard.”

A Lower Moreland resident, Devlin is affiliated with Infinity Church in the Bronx and is the director of Widows & Orphans, which goes into war zones to help. He is a Vietnam veteran who received a Purple Heart.

He and his wife Nancy assist formerly sex-trafficked girls “so the pro-life commitment goes beyond just saving babies,” said Devlin.

“I’ve been a colleague of Mark Houck for 20 years,” he said. “My organization and Mark’s organization have worked together on a number of issues. I’ve known Mark as a father, as a husband, as a Christian believer.”

Houck has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and his attorneys plan to argue that the FACE Act does not cover a clinic escort in any case.

The trial before Judge Gerald Pappert is expected to last through the week.

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Trial for Bucks County Pro-Life Advocate to Begin Tuesday

The trial for Mark Houck, the Bucks County pro-life advocate charged with violating the FACE Act for an altercation with an abortion clinic escort, is set to begin at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia on Jan. 24.

The case has national implications as to whether an escort can be considered an abortion provider under the law. Houck, who was arrested by a small army of FBI agents and other law enforcement as his wife and frightened children watched, has become a cause celeb for the pro-life movement.

One of Houck’s lawyers, Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society, said the government is pressing the wrong charges. And although Judge Gerard Pappert, a Republican who had formerly served as the state attorney general, denied a motion to dismiss, Breen was heartened by the judge’s remarks in that decision.

Mark and Ryan-Marie Houck and their children

“The judge recognized in his order that the altercation was about literature and that’s not a FACE violation,” said Breen.  (FACE is the “Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances” Act.) Houck, who leads a Catholic men’s ministry, had gone back toward the clinic to retrieve some of the brochures he had been handing out that were in a trash can when he was confronted by the escort.

The escort, Bruce Love, was also “harassing” Houck’s then 12-year-old son.

“If two people have an argument over harassment of (one’s) son or positioning on the sidewalk, that sort of thing is clearly not a violation of the FACE Act,” said Breen.

The FACE Act or Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act does not include volunteer escorts, Breen said.

“We vigorously dispute the allegations,” said Breen. “It’s not a violation unless the person is somehow impacting the abortion process. And that’s not the case here, very clearly.”

During pretrial litigation, Houck’s team showed evidence that Congress did not intend to include volunteer escorts when the FACE Act was written. They quoted the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) who said, “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 (under FACE).”

City police and the district attorney previously declined to file charges against Houck. A private legal action filed by the pro-abortion activist was dismissed.

“What we’ve contended is the description in the indictment is 180 degrees from the real facts of the case,” said Breen. Houck did not approach the escort. Rather, “Love made a beeline to intercept and interfere with Mark,” said Breen.

The indictment states that on Oct. 31, 2021, at the Planned Parenthood Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center on Locust Street in Philadelphia, Houck “by force, intentionally injured, intimidated and interfered” with Bruce Love. And also, Houck “verbally confronted B.L. and forcefully shoved B.L. to the ground.”

“The government has no video, no pictures, no audio of (the incident),” Breen said.

Although the indictment claims there were two witnesses, the government has not told the defense who those people were.

Asked whether the Houck case is part of the Biden administration’s desire to promote abortion and clamp down on pro-life activity, Breen said, “Well, we are now up to almost 200 pro-life centers or churches vandalized or otherwise damaged. Instead of charging the people that did those things, you had over 20 pro-life activists charged under FACE. Our question to the administration is, when are you going to protect pro-life citizens because the charges under FACE so far have been against peaceful individuals?”

And, “the allegation against Mark is the first, as far as we know, the first and only prosecution of a pro-life sidewalk counselor for what he is alleged to do against an abortion escort.” So this is, to some extent, a test case for the Biden Department of Justice. We believe if they were to prevail, they would try to take this legal theory to other parts of the country.”

“That’s why it’s an extremely important case,” said Breen. “Folks across the country are watching it. There were no patients involved. No clinic staff.  As far as we know, that’s never been the subject of criminal prosecution by the government.”

Houck, 49, was released on his own recognizance the same day as his arrest at his Kintersville home.

“Think about that. Twenty-five FBI agents go to his home as if he were somehow a danger,” said Breen, who noted the lawyers had offered to bring him in “at no cost to the U.S. taxpayer.”

“It’s clear that intimidation is one of the tactics being used by the federal government,” said Breen. “And I can tell you that I received calls from sidewalk counselors that were intimidated. They’re wondering, ‘Am I going to be next?’”

Pro-life activists plan a rally to support Houck outside the courthouse at 601 Market Street at 11 a.m. on Jan. 24.  A previous rally attracted dozens of supporters.

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Houck Arrest ‘Just the Beginning,’ Pro-Life Protesters Warn

Supporters of anti-abortion activist Mark Houck, taken by FBI agents from his Bucks County home last month, turned out Friday outside the U.S. Attorney’s office to protest his arrest and warn the public:

Houck’s arrest was just the beginning of the Biden administration’s targeting of pro-life Americans.

Houck, 48, of Kinternsville, was charged with violating the federal Freedom of Access of Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) regarding an October 2021 incident outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Philadelphia. Despite local authorities declining to prosecute, and a private legal action that was also rejected, the Department of Justice chose to arrest Houck and pursue the case.

On Sept. 23, numerous armed FBI agents stormed the Houck’s home, frightening his seven children and wife, Ryan-Marie, even though his lawyers had informed the Department of Justice he was willing to turn himself in, said Peter Breen with the Thomas More Society who represents Houck.

Ashley Garecht, who has prayed outside the clinic in the past, told the 100 or so people who gathered Friday, “Mark has stood in front of that facility for years. He has prayed and counseled often in the face of vile harassment…Sadly this storyline fits all too well in Philadelphia.”

And, she noted, they were just a block away from where President Joe Biden gave his controversial speech about American extremism. Bathed in blood-red lighting and with Marines behind him, Biden spoke ominously about “MAGA forces”  that he called a threat to “the very foundations of our republic” and who are actively working to “undermine democracy itself.” Garecht pointed out Biden included prof-lifers in his remarks as well.

“President Biden made his intentions toward the pro-life community crustal clear in his alarming and malevolent speech in front of Independence Hall,” Garecht said. “Shame on him.”



In a video message released by the Thomas More Society, Breen echoed the message that Houck’s arrest is part of a larger agenda.

“Right here, right now, this is the first big case from the [Biden administration] DOJ,” Breen said. “Let’s beat the DOJ, beat them soundly in a public case that everyone’s following. And then Lord willing, you’ll have Merrick Garland, the Attorney General of the United States, called in front of Congress, to answer those tough questions: Why did you put the health family in such danger? Why are you prosecuting this peaceful man for what is at worst, a local matter at best to local matter?

“And I hope that at that point we will be finished with our trial and we’ll have gotten a not guilty verdict.”

Prominent anti-abortion activist and Fox commentator Kathy Barnette, a candidate in the GOP U.S. Senate primary earlier this year, told the crowd she thought long and hard about whether she should speak because it might lead to the government targeting her.

“What does it say about a nation who would look at the most innocent people and say, ‘You don’t matter. You don’t count?’ And then weaponize the government to intimidate those who understand that that is a life,” Barnette said.

“It is going to cost us from this point forward to say there is such a thing as truth. And I am going to stand and not cower. Ten years ago it would not have cost us what it will cost now,” she added.

Speaker after speaker called on the crowd to pray and at the end of the hour-long protest, most of those present kneeled on the hard sidewalk and prayed the “Our Father.”  Some of the speakers also told the protesters to be sure to vote in November.

Houck’s mother-in-law, Kathleen McCarthy, who also lives in Bucks County, came to the protest, along with some of Ryan-Marie’s eleven siblings.

Asked by Delaware Valley Journal how the Houck family is handling events, McCarthy said, “I will tell you God’s grace is always sufficient. They are trying to bring back what they have built all their married life, a home filled with peace, strength, and grace. And one day at a time.”

Talk radio Host Dom Giordano reminded the crowd Houck is represented by Brian J. McMonagle, “the number one defense attorney in Philadelphia.” And while this case is about the Houck family, Giordano said he hopes the “FBI agents who don’t agree with this stuff do everything in their power to slow down this weaponization against average Americans exercising their rights.”

Giordano noted the irony of Houck’s home “being raided by the FBI with that amount of force while violence and criminal behavior in Philadelphia is out of control.

“In a way, Mark Houck is doing a service not just for those potential kids at the abortion clinic. He’s doing a service for every one of us here.”

Among the protesters was Terrisa Bukovinac carrying a sign that said she is atheist, progressive, and anti-abortion. A Washington, D.C. resident, she started the nonprofit Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising after heading a similar group in San Francisco.

Many Democrats agree that some restrictions are needed on late-term abortion, she said. “There is a lot of common ground.”

And protester Liz Madden of Radnor said she felt compelled to protest after that township passed an ordinance forbidding police to investigate abortion providers, which could result in another Kermit Gosnell, she said, referring to the infamous Philadelphia abortion provider now serving 30 years in prison for serial murder.

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Lawyer: Arrest of Bucks County Pro-Lifer Meant to Intimidate

Sen. Pat Toomey joined the chorus of lawmakers who signed a sharply critical letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray over the unorthodox arrest of a prominent Bucks County pro-life advocate. And his attorney says the entire operation is designed to intimidate pro-life Americans into silence.

Mark Houck, 48, of Kintnersville, was charged with violating the federal Freedom of Access of Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) regarding an October 2021 incident outside an abortion clinic in Philadelphia. Philadelphia police and the district attorney’s office had declined to charge Houck at the time. A private legal action by the pro-abortion activist was dismissed in July.

Houck pleaded not guilty to the federal charges this past week. If convicted, he faces up to a maximum of 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and fines of up to $350,000, according to a Department of Justice statement.

Houck has been represented by the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm, which has been in contact with the FBI since he received a “target letter” in May. Houck’s attorneys informed the DOJ he would voluntarily appear in court. But according to the family’s account, a contingent of heavily-armed FBI agents showed up at Houck’s home last week pointing guns at his family, including young children.

“Given their cooperation with federal law enforcement, the family did not expect to be awakened at 7 a.m. with reportedly over 20 FBI agents surrounding their home wearing armor-plated tactical vests, ballistic helmets, and holding ballistic shields and long guns,” Toomey and his fellow senators wrote.

“The Houck family’s account of the FBI coming to their family home to arrest Mark Houck, who was already cooperating with law enforcement, is concerning,” said Toomey (R-Pa.) via Twitter.

Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel for Thomas More, told DVJournal the letter from Toomey and the other senators was very “pointed,” asking why the FBI did not use a de-escalation plan Garland had put into place earlier this year.

“Just three years ago, I won a FACE case on similar facts in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. On that basis, they have no case against Mark Houck,” said Breen. “And his case, not involving a Mafia boss, he’s got a men’s ministry. (Houck is) what you might call an evangelist, a Catholic speaker.”

“He does not have a criminal history of any sort and when a distinguished former federal prosecutor says, ‘I will bring my client in,’ and even if they wanted to make a show of arresting him, you would not send more than a couple of agents, and those agents would not be dragging him out at gunpoint.

“They would be knocking on the door, presenting an arrest warrant, letting him get his effects and, in a dignified way, say goodbye to his family for the day, then go downtown. Under no circumstances do you send at least 20 federal agents and apparently state law enforcement as well, with shields, long guns, helmets, and the like,” said Breen.

The Thomas More Society has brought in well-known Philadelphia lawyer Brian McMonagle to defend Houck.

According to Ryan-Marie Houck, 15 law enforcement vehicles were on their front lawn.

“Can you even imagine? What if their 6-year-old had gone out with a toy gun because he saw his daddy taken away? What would have happened?” asked Breen. Mark Houck is “not a threat,” he said.

Breen believes the raid was orchestrated out of DOJ headquarters in Washington, not Philadelphia.

Asked whether it would have a chilling effect on people’s rights to freedom of religion and speech, Breen said, “Well, the only reason for a show of force like this was to send a message to people of faith, pro-life people, in an intimidating way. So that’s how I received it. We see that as an intimidation message. If you exercise your First Amendment rights, there could be a bunch of federal agents at your door.”

And Houck was not someone involved in national politics. He was an ordinary person, Breen pointed out.

“If Mark Houck was such a danger to the community, why did it take a year to go and pick him up?” asked Breen.

The alleged victim approached Houck and his then 12-year-old son while praying in front of an abortion clinic. That man “harassed” the boy, and “an altercation ensued,” Breen said.

Breen said the incident had no connection to the FACE Act because Houck was not blocking the entrance to the abortion clinic or stopping anyone from getting an abortion.

“None of that happened here,” said Breen. “This is an intimidation tactic, a meritless case, and we are going to stand up firmly against it.”

“Maybe the Justice Department thought they could roll one individual pro-lifer…but we are going to make sure he has the most vigorous defense that can be mounted,” said Breen.

“We are very grateful that the senators and congress members are looking to assist,” he said. “They are also asking the question, ‘What in the world is going on with this raid? Why are you prosecuting this guy? It’s a local matter.”

The DVJournal asked area Congress members and candidates for Congress whether they plan to sign the Houck letter.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) did not respond. Nor did Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Delaware/Philadelphia), or Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery County).

“As one of the most bipartisan members of Congress, Rep. Houlahan is constantly looking for opportunities to work across the aisle to deliver real progress for her community, not partisan talking points,” said Aubrey Stuber, communications director for (Chrissy) Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks). “The letter was never even circulated to our legislative staff for consideration, a sign that it was intended to be a partisan exercise. So while Rep. Houlahan takes oversight of our federal agencies very seriously, this letter demonstrates a lack of collaboration and bipartisanship.”

Dean’s Republican opponent, Christian Nascimento, said, “My understanding was that the local authorities either dismissed or did not pursue charges in this case. If that is true, then the DOJ should explain why the federal government felt the need to get involved, and on what evidence.”

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