WASHINGTON — A pro-life group is calling for the impeachment of United States Attorney General Merrick Garland following a raid on a pro-life activist's home.
Led by Terrisa Bukovinac of the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, pro-life activists held a press conference outside the Department of Justice Wednesday, less than two weeks after the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania arrested Mark Houck, a pro-life activist, for allegedly violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.
The FACE Act subjects federal charges on anyone who “intentionally injures, intimidates, or interferes with or attempts to injure, intimidate or interfere with any person” aiding or performing abortions. The DOJ maintains that “the defendant is alleged to have twice assaulted a man because he was a volunteer reproductive health care clinic escort,” according to a statement.
However, a fundraiser set up following Houck’s arrest contends that the pro-life activist and his 12-year-old son were “harassed” by the clinic escort as they prayed outside a Philadelphia Planned Parenthood facility: “When one of the escorts began harassing Mark’s son, they walked down the street away from the entrance to the building. The escort followed them, and when he continued yelling at Mark’s son, Mark pushed him away.”
The early morning raid on Houck’s home, followed by his arrest, sparked outrage in the pro-life community. In remarks at the press conference, Bukovinac cited the raid on Houck’s home as the latest example of the DOJ’s targeting of pro-life activists “while allowing violent pro-abortion extremists to terrorize churches and pregnancy centers across the country.”
Bukovinac said she has “watched in horror as the U.S. Department of Justice has been weaponized to arrest peaceful, non-violent pro-life activists.” She added that the FACE Act was cited as the justification used to charge “at least 18 peaceful, nonviolent protesters” in the past year with federal crimes. Bukovinac characterized the legislation, passed in 1994, as an effort that was designed to “crush a nonviolent resistance that mobilized tens of thousands of people for direct action on behalf of the unborn.”
Randall Terry, the founder of the pro-life group Operation Rescue, was “the reason that the FACE Act was enacted in the first place,” she added.
“When Bill Clinton was elected, he appointed Janet Reno as his attorney general,” Terry recalled in his comments at the news conference. “When she came up to the microphone in her press conference, she said one of her top priorities was to break the back of Operation Rescue.”
Noting that the FACE Act passed less than two years later, Terry insisted that “it was always designed to isolate people of faith who wanted to defend the unborn.”
In an interview with The Christian Post, Terry said that “between 1987 and 1994, we accumulated over 75,000 arrests around the country for peacefully blockading abortion clinics.”
“We would sit there, 100, 200, 500 people and not let anyone in. We closed them for the whole day and saved the babies that were scheduled to die that day,” he added. Under the FACE Act, pro-life activists went from facing “local trespass charges” to “now facing a federal misdemeanor for the first offense and a federal felony for the second offense.” Terry added that “once that law was passed, it effectively broke the back of our movement.”
“There’s no basis for FACE anymore,” Bukovinac told CP, because “FACE is predicated on the ruling in Roe v. Wade that the Supreme Court now says was ‘egregiously wrong’ from the beginning.”
While most of the news conference focused on the DOJ’s efforts to prosecute pro-life activists, Bukovinac echoed the concerns of other pro-life activists that “the Department of Justice has allowed more than 50 pregnancy centers to be attacked.” She noted that “the FACE Act is designed to protect pregnancy centers and churches as well.”
The Christian Post has compiled lists of churches and pro-life pregnancy centers that have found themselves subject to vandalism and firebombing after Politico published a draft opinion of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization indicating that the justices were poised to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide, as well as the additional vandalism that has taken place following the June 24 Dobbs decision.
“We have also seen churches blocked by pro-abortion radicals without any action taken by the Department of Justice,” Bukovinac lamented. “This is unjust. We cannot allow this discrimination to continue. We are urging Congress to take action; we are urging them to impeach Garland to protect justice and to dismantle the FACE Act altogether.”
Another speaker at the news conference, Jonathan Darnell of the advocacy group Get Serious Church, discussed the legal challenges he faces as a result of his pro-life activism: “About two years ago, I was videotaping a peaceful pro-life rescue at a local abortion clinic and that’s all that happened. I went home a free man at the end of the day. I didn’t hear anything from DC authorities, nothing from the FBI, nothing, not a letter, nothing, for two years.”
“Then, this March, at [the] crack of dawn in the morning, [the] FBI breaks down my door. A bunch of agents come through with guns drawn, just like they did with Mark Houck. Thankfully, there [were] no kids in our house.”
Now, Darnell finds himself subject to up to 11 years in prison for violating the FACE Act. Darnell pleaded with pro-life governors across the U.S. to take action by urging the FBI to stop “persecuting citizens based on a political bias.”
“I would like to know what pro-life governors are doing allowing the FBI to operate in their states anymore,” he said. “When they’re behaving like this, why are you even allowing the federal government to do these [sorts] of things within your states?” he asked.
Darnell's message to pro-life governors is: “If the federal government’s not going to do its job, if Merrick Garland’s going to walk, just don’t let them operate in your state.” He also called on “pro-life police officers” as well as “individual FBI agents” to refrain from carrying out orders that violate their oath of office.
The event that led Darnell to face charges under the FACE Act took place at Dr. Cesare Santangelo’s abortion clinic in Washington, D.C., in late October 2020. Darnell founded Get Serious Church as part of an effort to address “the lack of numbers of pro-life people that want to be active.”
“Nobody wants to rescue, nobody wants to be on the street with a sign or talk to their neighbors,” he said. “Most people just want to pray and vote, sometimes march at the March for Life or give a little money to the [crisis pregnancy centers].”
Wednesday's protest outside the DOJ concluded with the pro-life leaders and onlookers shouting chants proclaiming “Protect justice, impeach Garland.”
PAAU will lead a separate protest in front of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, the federal court that spearheaded Houck's arrest, on Thursday.
When asked if PAAU and pro-life activists would hold a protest in front of the FBI headquarters, Bukovinac responded, “it’s possible.” She predicted that as the DOJ’s actions become “more and more draconian, more and more people are going to come out wanting to oppose this tyranny, and I think you’re going to see a lot more events.”
Bukovinac expressed confidence that the actions of the FBI and DOJ that led PAAU to organize the protest would “have an unintended effect of actually mobilizing people for direct action rather than quashing it, which is their intention.”
Last year, Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., introduced articles of impeachment against Garland over the DOJ’s memo likening parents concerned about sexually explicit curriculum, LGBT ideology and critical race theory in public schools to domestic terrorism. The effort to impeach Garland has gained little traction in the Democrat-controlled Congress.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: email@example.com