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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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