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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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Neighbors Come Together in Opposition to Lower Merion School District’s Planned Athletics Complex

Opponents of the Lower Merion School District’s plan to locate new athletics fields in the heart of their neighborhood voiced their concerns and called on the school district and township to find a suitable alternative location. They say it would result in increased pollution, safety problems, traffic congestion, and the destruction of nearly 500 historic trees and 13 acres of critical woodland habitat in a generations-old canopy shared with Stoneleigh.

The neighborhood gathering that would have preceded Lower Merion Zoning Hearing Board’s scheduled Oct. 14 meeting, however it was but the zoning hearing was postponed and a new date has not yet been set. Multiple appeals were filed by residents who oppose the district’s plans for the new athletic field.

To date, 2,179 people have signed a petition calling on township officials and the school district to work together to explore other options and avoid the parcel’s complete deforestation, including clearcutting the vast areas of mature trees.

When neighbors and other supporters of the public gardens at Stoneleigh in 2018 successfully blocked the Lower Merion School District from seizing its land and taking part of the property for its then-proposed new middle school’s playing fields, the district looked at other sites. Eventually, it settled on land (1800 W. Montgomery Avenue and 1835 County Line Road), which include a forest and wildlife habitat. There are nearly 500 historic trees on the site near Stoneridge, Clairemont, and adjoining streets in the Rosemont-Villanova section of the township, the opponents contend.

Lower Merion School District residents sounded off on the ongoing issue and how it would impact their community.

“The issue with this proposal by LMSD is multi-faceted and unfortunately severely impacts the community it supposedly serves,” said Andrew Abramson, a Lower Merion resident. “The biggest impact to those of us who live in the immediate neighborhood is safety. But unfortunately, safety is being thrown out the window, and for those of us who have followed the process we just don’t understand why.”

“First, there is the safety of the children in an unsecured field. LMSD touts how safe the new school will be with high walls, security lights, cameras, and more,” Abramson continued. “It feels like they are pushing an agenda that in no way serves our community when there are a lot of better options.”

Another resident agreed.

“The LMSD was well aware of the limitations of that purchase and the challenges of making that property viable, with only one field and a few tennis courts, fitting into the unusual configuration,” Ann Gelfond said. “Their seizing of the County Line property for fields has many issues as well.”

“Both the school and proposed fields will impact the entire neighborhood, as well as our neighbors across Montgomery Avenue, with additional cars as both locations have minimal parking,” Gelfond said.

“The Lower Merion Board of School Directors and Administration strongly believe that every child in our district deserves the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities that will enhance their social/emotional growth and connection to their school community,” said Amy Buckman, a spokeswoman for the district. “For many of our students, participation in athletics supports these goals.

“That is why in December 2018, the district paid more than $12.9 million for the contiguous properties at 1800 W. Montgomery Avenue and 1835 County Line Road, which had both been offered for sale by their owners,” she said. “Since then, the district has invested significant capital in designing the project and going through the land development process, including a successful appeal of the township’s conditions of approval. The additional fields also support the township’s comprehensive plan, which noted the need for more playing fields in the community.

“Prior to finalizing the field location, the district looked at numerous other sites that ended up not working out,” Buckman added. “These included properties on Spring Mill Road, which contained protected wetlands; the area of Stoneleigh that’s currently being used for composting, the acquisition of which was blocked; Ashbridge Park, the acquisition of which was also blocked; and other sites that were deemed unsuitable for a variety of reasons, including topography, amount of acreage and distance from the school.

“While LMSD understands that some neighbors are concerned about having athletic fields for children near their homes, we believe that providing ample opportunities for children from our community to practice, play, compete and learn serves a greater good,” she said.