New details are emerging in the Department of Justice targeting of a pro-life activist and Catholic father of seven who was arrested at his home in Pennsylvania on Friday.
Some 25 armed FBI agents in 15 vehicles raided the residence of Mark Houck, who leads a nonprofit group that provides sidewalk counseling at abortion clinics in Philadelphia, over an incident last year involving his then-12-year-old son at a Planned Parenthood abortion facility, the family says.
Houck protected his son from an aggressive Planned Parenthood escort harassing the 12-year-old, Pennsylvania pro-life activist Ashley Garecht told The Daily Wire, noting that the case was dismissed by a federal court in Philadelphia when the escort tried to press charges.
Here’s what we know so far.
What is Houck facing?
The Catholic father is facing up to 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and fines of up to $350,000, according to Fox News.
U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero said Friday that Houck was charged by indictment with violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act for allegedly assaulting a person who provides abortion-related services.
How did the arrest go down?
The activist’s wife, Ryan-Marie Houck, told LifeSiteNews that a group of agents in SWAT gear arrived in 15 vehicles outside the family home at around 7:05 a.m. Friday morning. The agents quickly surrounded the house and began pounding on the door, demanding they open up. Houck reportedly tried to get the agents to calm down, noting that his seven children were scared, but the agents kept shouting.
“They had big, huge rifles pointed at Mark and pointed at me and kind of pointed throughout the house,” Mrs. Houck said, adding, “The kids were all just screaming. It was all just very scary and traumatic.”
What the feds are denying
A spokesperson with the Philadelphia office of the FBI said SWAT was not involved with the arrest of Houck.
“There are inaccurate claims being made regarding the arrest of Mark Houck. No SWAT Team or SWAT operators were involved,” a spokesperson told Fox News. “FBI agents knocked on Mr. Houck’s front door, identified themselves as FBI agents and asked him to exit the residence. He did so and was taken into custody without incident pursuant to an indictment.”
Notably, a senior FBI source told Fox News there might have been 15-20 agents at the scene who came to the family’s door with guns out and at the ready. The source claimed that the guns were never pointed at Houck or his family.
What happened during the incident at Planned Parenthood?
Garecht, who has created a GiveSendGo account for the Houcks with her husband, Joe, told The Daily Wire Houck protected his son from an aggressive Planned Parenthood escort harassing the then-12-year-old last year.
The case was dismissed by a federal court in Philadelphia when the escort tried to press charges, she said, but then the Biden DOJ picked up the case.
“Last year, Mark and his son were praying in front of the [Planned Parenthood] at 12th and Locust,” the GiveSendGo account says. “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.”
“It’s all on video,” the post continues. “But that hasn’t stopped Planned Parenthood and the Biden Administration. With no prior warning, and in spite of the fact that Mark is represented by an attorney, Biden’s Justice Department sent a fully armed SWAT team into a home full of young children at daybreak, to arrest a father for protecting his son.”
The DOJ said in a press release that a man identified as “B.L.” was escorting Planned Parenthood patients “when the defendant forcefully shoved B.L. to the ground,” according to Fox News.
Houck allegedly “verbally” confronted B.L. and forcefully shoved him to the ground outside the clinic in another incident.
“Assault is always a serious offense, and under the FACE Act, if the victim is targeted because of their association with a reproductive healthcare clinic, it is a federal crime,” Romero said. “Our office and the Department of Justice are committed to prosecuting crimes which threaten the safety and rights of all individuals.”
“Put simply, violence is never the answer,” said Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division Jacqueline Maguire, Fox News reported. “Violating the FACE Act by committing a physical assault is a serious crime for which the FBI will work to hold offenders accountable.”
Houck is the co-founder and president of The King’s Men, a Catholic nonprofit for men. The organization has small outreach groups in some 17 states across the country and is in the process of expanding globally.
“We are 100% pro-life from the moment of conception to natural death,” the group says on its website.
Other “core values” include the belief “that a man must lead through his weakness” and “that a daily prayer life is essential for a man’s spiritual growth.”
Support for the Houcks
Donations have been pouring in for the pro-life activist. As of Monday morning, more than $160,000 has been raised for the family, with a new goal of $175,000.
“We will not back down, we will not stop fighting to protect the lives of Pennsylvania’s unborn children, and we WILL NOT TOLERATE the harassment of our leaders by a corrupt and politicized justice system,” the GiveSendGo page for Houck asserts.
Joe and Ashley Garecht created the crowdfunding page. Notably, the couple’s daughters in 2019, then just 13 and 15 years old, were harassed by then-State Rep. Brian Sims (D) for several minutes as they prayed for unborn children outside a Pennsylvania abortion clinic.
The Garechts say the funds raised through the campaign “will go to help the family with any necessary expenses.”
“Your generosity is greatly appreciated,” the couple adds. “Let’s show the Houck family they are not alone, while we show Planned Parenthood and its militant pro-abortion allies that the pro-life community will not be silenced by fear and intimidation.”
John Rigolizzo contributed to this report.
Related: FBI SWAT Team Conducts Early-Morning Raid, Arrests Pro-Life Activist At Pennsylvania Home: Report