(NRCC News) – Pro-life activist Mark Houck has given an exclusive interview after his acquittal on federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE Act) charges. Houck and his wife, Ryan-Marie, sat down with Live Action president and founder Lila Rose and talked about the events that led to the charges and the trial.
Houck is the co-founder and president of The King’s Men, a Catholic men’s outreach organization, and has made pro-life activism a central part of his life. He appears outside of the Philadelphia Planned Parenthood weekly in an effort to reach women and save the lives of their unborn children. Over two decades his efforts have resulted in at least 100 babies being spared the gruesome fate of abortion. It’s clear why abortion zealots hate Houck and he believes that his effectiveness in stopping women from committing abortion is the reason for the events that took place on Oct. 13, 2021.
“[M]y son and I were going into the city. It’s a great day for Mark Jr. and I,” explained Mark. “Two hours down, two hours back. Father-son time. … He loves it. He’s done 40 or 50 prayer vigils with me.”
Mark Jr., age 12, goes along with his father to the sidewalk outside of the Philly Planned Parenthood where they help parents who are considering abortion.
One such couple opened up about their own experience with Mark.
“I had one hand on the door about to go into Planned Parenthood, and then Mark stopped us and he was like, ‘You guys don’t have to do this,’” recalled a new mother who was set on having an abortion.
The baby’s father added, “Thank God he [Mark] was the extra push because she [his daughter] wouldn’t be here, we probably wouldn’t be together, I probably wouldn’t be here living on my own… I couldn’t even fathom it, honestly. And it’s like, that’s how much he means to me. .. The pro-lifers definitely were there for us every step of the way.”
On October 13, Mark and his son headed to the abortion facility expecting it to be business as usual. After they had been there for about 45 minutes, Mark was walking a couple of women to the pregnancy center across the street from Planned Parenthood when an escort from the abortion facility, who Mark has known for 20 years, stepped in between Mark and the women.
After that, Mark went back to pray with his son while the escort returned to the facility. The escort came back out shortly after to talk to Mark Jr.
The escort comes out, and they have a strict policy, which we learned in the trial, not to engage pro-lifers, activists, outreach, people doing outreach, but nonetheless, he disengaged from that policy and he came right up to my son, literally placed himself right next to him, violated his personal space, which he never does. He’s never done that.
And I said, ‘Hey, man you gotta, you gotta leave us alone.’ He was talking to me and I said, fine, you know, but I was ignoring him mostly. But then he starts talking to my son.
Now, he’s talked to my son before, but this time, he’s ignoring me and he’s talking to my son about me and he’s trying to get in his mind. He’s trying to get in: ‘Your dad hates women. Your dad’s hurting women. See what your dad’s doing.’ Now, look, you’re a father and you’re watching this all happen and my son shuffles away from him… like this is uncomfortable, scared, what’s happening here? He’s never done this before.
I said, ‘Look, you need to leave. You need to go back there.’ And I walk him back to where he normally stands and I think he’s gonna be compliant with that. I turn back to go back and be with my son. Next thing I know, he must have turned around and he starts talking to my son.
He continued, saying that’s when “I push him away from my son. It became a father’s right. It wasn’t First Amendment rights. It was dad’s rights, ya know?” He explained that at the time, there were no Planned Parenthood clients walking into or standing outside of the building, nonetheless, “He got what he wanted,” stated Mark. “It was caught on camera.”
The escort fell to the ground before getting up and going back inside. Mark and his son left to attend Holy Hour at a nearby church and cool down. When they came back, there were police officers and Mark gave them a statement.
The escort filed a private criminal complaint a month later but neither the district attorney nor the Philadelphia Police Department wanted to prosecute Mark since the incident was so minor. When the court dates came, however, the escort was consistently a no-show and eventually the case was dismissed in April 2022.
But it was only just the beginning of Mark Houck’s ordeal. Just five days after the case was dismissed, Houck received a target letter from the Department of Justice saying he was being investigated by a federal grand jury. Mark secured attorney Mark Heffron of the Thomas More Society to represent him and Heffron told the Assistant U.S Attorney that Mark is innocent and there was case law in the district against indicting him.
He also added that if they do choose to indict him, Mark is peaceful and will bring himself in and there is no need to send an agent for him.
“The next thing we know… September 23rd, Friday morning at 6:45 in the morning, I got a quiche in the oven because it’s [homeschool] co-op day. […] So it’s dark in the fall in rural Pennsylvania at 6:45 in the morning… The children are all asleep. … The doorbell rings repeatedly at 6:45 over and over again. And I said, oh my gosh, it’s alarming the whole house,” explained Mark. “It was like, ‘Someone get hit by a car? Someone scared outside?’ Then there’s banging, really heavy banging and then I heard ‘Open up’. Now, this is apparently the FBI but at the time I didn’t know that. All they do is ring the doorbell, bang, and yell open up. … There [were] no sirens outside. I could not see anything. So I go to the door and I say, ‘Well who is it?’ And then there’s banging again, the doorbell again, ‘Open up, it’s the FBI.’”
Live Action reports, “Mark told the agents through the door to remain calm because there were seven children in the house. He opened the door, hands in the air, and said he saw about 15 police cars with five agents on his porch pointing M16s at him and at his wife as she came down the stairs. They had armored vests, ballistic helmets, ballistic shields, and battering rams. Behind them were state troopers with guns pointed. Unknown to Mark at the time, there were more men at the back door.”
None of the agents gave any explanation as to why they were there and then he realized “Oh! You’re here because I rescue babies.” The agents were silent until Ryan-Marie pressed them. She explained:
I said, “Do you have a warrant?” and they said, “We’re taking him with or without a warrant.” I said, “No, that’s kidnapping at gunpoint. You can’t take somebody. I want to see the warrant. Who are you here for?” “We’re here for him.” “Who? He has a name. Tell me who you’re here for.” “Mark Houck.” “Okay, I want to see the warrant, like, you can’t just come and arrest somebody and not even say their name and not produce a warrant from a judge saying that you have permission to do this.”
They eventually gave me the warrant but they took him first, prior to getting the warrant.
Meanwhile, the couple’s seven children were terrified. “All of the children were screaming,” said Ryan-Marie. “My son was saying, ‘You can’t take him. He’s my best friend.’ My daughter Therese was really a mess after she saw the people in the back of the house… It was seven kids running around screaming and crying and grabbing onto my legs.”
Mark added, “[It was] an act of terror designed to humiliate, intimidate and instill fear in us and they’ve effectively done that with our children to this day, but [to] instill fear in pro-life America, right? Because this is now becoming an overreach of government.”
Once in custody, Mark was put in a belly shackle and his feet were shackled. He was chained to a table for six hours. They treated him, remarked Ryan-Marie, as a “domestic terrorist.”
But through the ordeal, Mark noted he had “great peace. It’s the closest I ever felt to Jesus in my life.”
Live Action explained:
Eventually, Mark was released on a $10,000 bond and told to report for arraignment. Ten hours after the ordeal began, Mark was home. Following his arraignment on September 27th, more than three months went by before he heard from the assistant DA again. On January 6th, an email arrived with a plea deal offer for Mark — zero to six months if he pled guilty to violating the FACE Act. Facing 11 years if convicted, plus a $350,000 fine, it could have been easy for Mark to take that plea deal. But he and his wife both refused.
“We need to do this for the pro-life movement, explained Mark. “… Regardless of what’s best for our family, we need to do this for the greater good, for the common good.” They turned down the deal, shocking the assistant DA.
Ryan-Marie added, “God didn’t bring us to this moment to just bail out.”
Mark’s trial began on January 24th which just happens to be the national day of prayer for the unborn. The jury in the mostly pro-abortion region was made up of numerous people who donate to Planned Parenthood and have accessed its “services.” The jury didn’t seem balanced but the judge did seem fair.
Following testimony, including that of Mark and Mark Jr., the jury returned deadlocked. One juror refused to discuss the case and after a few days, he was replaced with the alternate. Within an hour or two of calling in the alternate, on January 30, the jury came back with not-guilty verdicts. The jury determined that Mark’s motives for pushing the escort were not to block anyone from entering an abortion facility.
“[I was] so relieved and then I turned around and I looked at the judge and He said,’ Mr. Houck, you’re free to go.’ — Which were the best words to hear, but then I said, ‘Thank you, Judge,’ and he said, ‘Thank you, Mr. Houck.’”
Mark and Ryan-Marie are now looking ahead to the future. As Ryan-Marie explained, “We’re open to allowing God to use us however He sees fit.”
Next up, the couple is going to speak before Congress to share their experience at the hands of the Biden DOJ. They also plan to seek out civil rights attorneys and refuse to back down in the fight to stop the “evil” persecution of innocent American citizens.
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