Mark Houck found not guilty of federal FACE Act charges after altercation near abortion clinic
A jury on Monday found Mark Houck, the Catholic pro-life advocate and father of seven who faced 11 years in prison, not guilty of a federal violation related to an encounter with a Planned Parenthood clinic escort in Philadelphia.
Houck was charged with two counts of violating the FACE Act in two incidents that occurred at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic on Oct. 13, 2021. The federal indictment accused Houck of shoving abortion clinic escort Bruce Love in two separate incidents on the same day.
The pro-life advocate was declared not guilty on all counts in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
"We are, of course, thrilled with the outcome," stated Peter Breen, executive vice president and head of litigation for the Thomas More Society, a nonprofit law firm that defended Houck.
"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," Breen continued.
"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."
As The Christian Post reported, in one incident, Houck was across the street from the facility and attempting to counsel two women when Love verbally confronted the pro-life advocate.
Houck claimed that in the second incident, he was defending his son, who was 12 years old at the time, after Love became aggressive. Security footage of the confrontation showed the escort falling to the ground, injuring his elbow.
The father and his son, Mark Houck Jr., testified Friday, the third day of the trial. On Thursday, defense attorneys requested a motion to dismiss the federal indictment.
Brian McMonagle of the law firm McMonagle, Perri, McHugh, Mischak & Davis, alongside Breen, argued before Judge Gerald Pappert that the federal government had not made a strong enough case to prosecute Houck.
This information was provided to CP via Pastor Bill Devlin, a friend of Houck's for over 20 years who had been present throughout the court proceedings.
"We are deep brothers in the faith, and I've come alongside to undergird and support him because it's the presumption of innocent until the government can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mark Houck violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act," Devlin told CP.
During every court recess, Devlin told CP that he would take people outside and lead them in prayer. Many also fasted in addition to praying that God would bring "victory" for Houck.
According to Devlin, McMonagle said Houck's actions were not a violation of the FACE Act, which prohibits "violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services."
After hearing the arguments for dismissing the case, the pastor said that the judge stated, "It appears to me that the U.S. government is stretching the statute of the FACE Act."
Federal prosecutors argued that Houck committed two violations of the FACE Act by preventing someone from entering the clinic and causing injury to Love by pushing him to the ground.
McMonagle argued that Love initiated the confrontation that resulted in his injury and that the escort was in violation of the non-engagement policy described in Planned Parenthood's volunteer escort manual, which instructs them not to engage with the pro-life sidewalk counselors.
The defense attorney argued that the case "never should have been brought to federal court" and the fact that it was brought to federal court is a "disgrace."
Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: email@example.com. Follower her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman