Anti-Abortion Activist Mark Houck Sues DOJ Over Arrest

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Mark Houck‘s life was forever altered in the fall of 2022 when he was arrested at gunpoint in front of his family after an investigation into his anti-abortion activism outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Philadelphia.

Following the Pennsylvania-based Catholic father’s acquittal by a jury in January 2023, Houck is now seeking accountability from the Department of Justice with a new lawsuit filed this week. The complaint names six police officers, including four unidentified officers, involved in the FBI’s investigation and the execution of the “needless” raid of Houck’s home, according to his attorney, Matt Britton.

Anti-Abortion Activist Mark Houck Sues DOJ Over Arrest
Anti-abortion activist Mark Houck and his family. (Thomas More Society)

The lawsuit, filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act, accuses the DOJ under the Biden administration of “malicious prosecution, retaliatory prosecution, abuse of process, false arrest, assault, and intentional infliction of emotional distress committed by federal employees and agents against Mr. Houck, Mrs. Houck, and their children,” according to the 79-page complaint.

Houck was accused of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances, or FACE, Act, with allegations from prosecutors that he “forcefully shoved” Philadelphia-based Planned Parenthood volunteer Bruce Love. Houck denied the attack, stating that Love had engaged in vulgar and harassing behavior toward his son, and claimed that he only shoved Love to protect his child. A jury eventually acquitted him of all charges in January last year, charges that could have resulted in up to 11 years in prison.

The sudden raid on the 49-year-old Catholic activist’s home generated widespread criticism from conservatives, accusing the Department of Justice of unfairly targeting anti-abortion activists.

Houck’s new lawsuit is supported by the activist group 40 Days for Life’s recently established Institute of Law & Justice. Shawn Carney, president and CEO of 40 Days for Life, indicated that ILJ aims to provide “essential” legal support to his group and its campaign leaders to ensure “they are protected from the increasing harassment and targeted actions by the DOJ.”

Before the 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade, Carney’s group had significantly relied on cooperation from the FBI and DOJ for security during vigils.

“This cooperation spanned multiple administrations, from Obama to Trump and even the early Biden administration,” Carney stated. “However, once Roe was overturned, pro-lifers across the nation, including Mark Houck, faced unprecedented attacks and targeting from the DOJ.”

Following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe, Carney noted that 40 Days for Life began to receive “at times” one to two targeted inquiries by the FBI against law-abiding volunteers. After the group filed a Notice of Claim in November to inform the DOJ of their litigation plans against the federal government, Carney said “essentially all harassment ceased.”

In order to sue the federal government, a notice of claims must precede the actual lawsuit by six months, which is why Houck’s lawsuit was filed on May 20.

“The federal government didn’t even bother to respond to the Notice of Claim,” Britton noted. The newly filed lawsuit will prevent the federal government from avoiding a response to the new suit brought by ILJ.

Last November, the anti-abortion activist’s wife, Ryan-Marie Houck, also filed a separate lawsuit seeking $3.25 million in damages against the DOJ for the “substantial emotional distress” their family endured during the September raid on their home.

“At the time of the raid, when she was only nine years old, she witnessed SWAT personnel staring her down at the back door … This memory continues to haunt her to this day,” reads the family’s complaint, referring to the raid’s impact on their daughter.

Houck also announced a bid for Congress in August last year to challenge Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) but ultimately lost to the incumbent congressman.

Read Houck’s lawsuit against the DOJ:

Kaelan Deese
Kaelan Deese
Supreme Court reporter covering the latest happenings at the nation's highest court and the legal issues surrounding Second Amendment rights, abortion, and religious liberties. He previously wrote breaking news as a fellow for The Hill during the 2020 election cycle. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma's Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communications program in 2019.

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