PHILADELPHIA (LifeSiteNews) — Committed pro-lifers gathered in Philadelphia today to rally and pray for pro-life leader and Catholic father of seven Mark Houck as the court convened to hear Houck’s much-anticipated case.
Houck was arrested by heavily-armed FBI agents last year after he allegedly pushed an abortion clinic “escort” who his attorneys say had been verbally harassing his young son using vulgar language. He now faces two felony charges for allegedly violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) Act, which his legal team argues doesn’t even apply in his case.
READ: Mark Houck heads to trial in one of the biggest pro-life cases of the century
Pro-Life Coalition of Pennsylvania spokeswoman Ashley Garecht told LifeSiteNews that an estimated 50 pro-life activists attended the Tuesday rally, which was MC’d by Pastor Bill Devlin and held between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. in front of the U.S. Courthouse in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at 6th and Market Street.
Garecht herself spoke at the event, observing that while the landmark reversal of Roe v. Wade in June 2022 was a major victory for the pro-life movement, it was immediately followed by “a wave of darkness” that “rose up,” immediately throwing advocates for the unborn into “a new chapter in the fight for life, liberty, and justice.”
In video footage shared with LifeSiteNews, the coalition spokeswoman noted that while some states have immediately moved to protect the preborn following the rollback of Roe, other states have moved in the opposite direction — meanwhile U.S. President Joe Biden, a self-professed Catholic, “calls pro-lifers extreme, dangerous, and out-of-touch.”
She also cited the “calamitous number of attacks” on pro-life pregnancy centers throughout the U.S., all of which have occurred without serious law enforcement action. Meanwhile, federal law enforcement has turned its guns on pro-life Americans.
“We thank God for the ability to save babies through the efforts of courageous sidewalk counselors. We are appalled that the FBI and the DOJ have been weaponized into machines of harassment and intimidation to silence pro-lifer warriors like Mark Houck,” she said.
In a Tuesday email statement, Garecht explained that the Biden administration’s Justice Department is acting “with malevolent intent in its selective prosecution” of Houck.
“More than 100 crisis pregnancy centers across the country, including Philadelphia’s own Hope Pregnancy Center, have been vandalized and attacked, without a single FBI arrest or DOJ indictment of any suspects. And yet Mark Houck is now on trial after defending his son from a known, aggressive Planned Parenthood escort,” she said.
“This unequal treatment under the law must end and we are encouraged by Congressman Jim Jordan’s official creation of the Select Subcommittee on Weaponization of the Federal Government to investigate Mark’s prosecution and others like it,” Garecht told LifeSite.
LifeSiteNews previously reported that the GOP majority in the U.S. House of Representatives resolved earlier this month to create a “Weaponization of Government” Select Committee to investigate alleged instances of FBI and other federal intelligence agencies’ meddling in domestic politics.
The committee is slated to consider 11 instances of alleged politicization of the FBI and the DOJ, including and the use of the FACE Act to arrest pro-lifers like Mark Houck and Paul Vaughn.
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio will lead the Select Committee.
READ: Rep. Jim Jordan to chair new committee investigating US gov’t ‘weaponization’ against conservatives
In comments to LifeSite, Garecht added that her pro-life coalition is “deeply grateful for the overwhelming support shown for Mark and his family by so many in the pro-life community of Pennsylvania and throughout the country.”
She said that supporters in every state in the U.S. have sent donations to help the Houck family, and that her group knows “that people all around the world are praying for Mark’s complete acquittal.”
“We wait in prayerful anticipation for precisely that verdict,” she said.
Houck’s trial begins this week and is set to be one of the most significant pro-life legal battles of the century.
The pro-life Catholic husband and father of seven faces two felony charges of violating the FACE Act, which could lead to up to 11 years in prison and fines totaling as much as $350,000. He has been ordered to surrender or refrain from obtaining a passport or firearms as a condition of his release on $10,000 bail.
Houck has pleaded not guilty to both charges lodged against him.
UPDATE (01/30/23): Mark Houck has been AQUITTED on both charges!
Thanks be to God LifeSiteNews can report that Mark Houck has been found "Not Guilty" on all counts today.
In a statement to LifeSiteNews, Pro-Life Coalition of Pennsylvania spokeswoman and Houck family friend Ashley Garecht said “We rejoice and celebrate that Mark Houck has been found not guilty on all counts.”
“This case was always about a father’s right to protect his son, and never had anything to do with the FACE act,” she said. “We are grateful to the judge for his integrity, and to the jurors for their thoughtful deliberations. We are grateful to Mark’s attorneys who labored so diligently in his defense. And we are grateful for all of those who surrounded and supported Mark and his family in prayer through this challenging ordeal.”
“Most of all we praise and thank God for his protection and provision,” Garecht added. “To Him be all the glory.”
The Thomas More Society is set to hold a press conference today on the 6th street side of the James A. Byrne U.S. Courthouse, 601 Market Street, Philadelphia.
Monday’s verdict came after a tense weekend wait following a deadlocked jury on Friday.
Several hours into Monday’s deliberations after the jury reconvened, an alternate was chosen to replace one of the jurors. Just before 3:00 p.m. EST, the jury delivered its verdict, acquitting Houck on both charges.
Mark Houck, a pro-life Catholic father of 7, became the latest victim of an FBI raid and arrest on the morning of Friday September 23 — for supposed “FACE (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances) (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances) Act” violations — at his rural home as his children looked on “screaming.”
The arrest and raid stems from an altercation with a Planned Parenthood worker.
According to Mark’s wife Ryan-Marie, a “pro-abortion protester” would verbally harrass Mark's 12-year old son — hurling vulgar and derogatory statements.
When the protestor encroached in the boy's space, Mark defended his son. At that point, “Mark shoved him away from his child, and the guy fell back,” Ryan-Marie recounts.
The protestor was not injured, but he tried to sue Mark Houck for the assault but his case was thrown out of court in the early summer.
WE CANNOT ALLOW THE LEFT TO HARRASS PRO-LIFE ADVOCATES THIS WAY!
It's vital to stand in solidarity with a pro-family and pro-life man being unjustly persecuted - please SIGN & SHARE our message of support now.
In case you hadn't caught on already, the satanic Biden administration is waging war on Christians. https://t.co/E6ChpZVDYW— Michael (X) Knowles ✊ (@michaeljknowles) September 24, 2022
The description of this arrest sounds like it took place in a totalitarian state. A tragic unraveling of Justice in America. https://t.co/e3vEID7E39— Bishop J. Strickland (@Bishopoftyler) September 25, 2022
If convicted, Houck faces up to a maximum of 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and fines of up to $350,000, according to the Justice Department.
Additional conservative pro-life leaders have weighed in — this is why we need your support ASAP.
“Just in the last few days we’ve seen some pretty glaring examples of what appear to be instances of DOJ [Department of Justice] overreach. You’ve got a Catholic father of seven who formed a group designed to encourage young men to be faithful to their commitments, arrested in front of his seven children just recently. You’ve got all these instances of overreach. It’s deeply concerning to us all. These are all things we’re gonna be looking into.” — US Senator Mike Lee
Tell the Houck family that you stand by them!
SIGN: We stand with pro-life Catholic dad of 7 raided by Biden’s FBI
Please share this petition widely. Let's stand in solidarity with Mark Houck and his family.
Thomas More Society executive vice president and head of litigation Peter Breen told LifeSiteNews on Saturday that Tuesday’s work would focus on jury selection.
According to an update provided by the conservative legal group on Tuesday, the jury will be sworn in on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. and the trial will begin.
“The judge says he expects all testimony to be finished by the end of the day Thursday (1.26.23) and, perhaps, closing arguments, too,” Thomas More Society executive vice President and general counsel Andrew Bath said.
“This was a sidewalk squabble that has turned into a federal case. It should have ended in the state courts, which threw this matter out, but unfortunately the Biden Department of Justice has decided to take an intimidation tack against pro-life people and people of faith,” Breen said in a statement.
LifeSite is closely watching the case and will provide updates as they come in. Readers are also encouraged to visit the Thomas More Society website for up-to-date developments.