Catholic pro-life activist Mark Houck and his wife Ryan-Marie Houck are seeking $4.3 million in damages from the Biden administration, accusing the Justice Department and FBI of targeting him over his anti-abortion views. Mr. Houck is seeking $1.1 million in damages for malicious and retaliatory prosecution, false arrest, abuse of process, and assault, citing the September 2022 raid on his rural Pennsylvania home in front of his wife and seven children by at least a dozen heavily armed FBI agents. His wife is suing for $3.25 million for severe emotional and physical distress that resulted in three miscarriages triggered by the stress of the FBI’s conduct and resulting prosecution. According to the notice of claim filed with the department’s torts branch, “The stress of these events has taken an immense toll on her body — such a significant toll that she had three miscarriages from the stress. Doctors have now diagnosed her with infertility. So alongside the trauma, paranoia, and anxiety she has suffered, she now carries the grief of losing three children and the pain of infertility.”
Mr. Houck was charged last year with violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act for pushing a Planned Parenthood volunteer in October 2021. Local authorities declined to prosecute, and a Philadelphia jury acquitted him of the federal charges in January.
“Upon information and belief, the purpose of the prosecution was to punish and chill speech and religious exercise by Mr. Houck and other pro-life advocates and volunteers for pro-life clinics, which senior leadership at the Department of Justice viewed as ‘predatory,’ unworthy of FACE Act and constitutional protection, and indeed, necessary to punish,” said the 28-page claim.
Handling the Houcks’ case is the Institute for Law and Justice at 40 Days for Life, a pro-life group for which Mr. Houck has volunteered since 2007. Shawn Carney, CEO of 40 Days for Life, said Mr. Houck’s arrest was “not just a horrible day for Mark Houck.” “It was a bad day for America. It was a bad day for you and your family. It was a bad day for me and my family,” he said in a video post. “Because the abuse of our federal government is at an all-time high. The new blatant bigotry and hatred that the DOJ has for pro-life Americans and for Catholic Americans is a recent and dangerous phenomenon.”
🧵In a landmark move, 40 Days for Life serves the DOJ with a powerful message: intimidation of pro-life activists will not be tolerated. Our lawsuit for Mark Houck’s rights is a stand for all Americans’ right to free expression without fear. Learn why from @CarneyShawn 📺⬇️ pic.twitter.com/JfLeIKwtnC
— 40 Days for Life (@40daysforlife) November 8, 2023
The claim filed by attorneys from Graves Garrett LLC in Kansas City, Missouri, was dated Oct. 30, but the legal action was announced Wednesday.
The administration has not commented publicly on the Houcks’ claim. The complaint comes with the Biden administration accused of bias for aggressively pursuing FACE Act charges against at least 34 pro-life protesters in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in 2022. Meanwhile, the department has brought only a handful of charges in the nearly 90 attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers, including arson, smashed windows and threatening graffiti messages like “if abortion isn’t safe, you aren’t either.” Attorney General Merrick Garland acknowledged the disparity at a Senate hearing in March but said the pro-choice vandals were tougher to catch because they operate at night in secret, unlike pro-life protesters. “There are many more prosecutions with respect to the blocking of the abortion centers, but that is generally because those actions are taken with photography at the time, during the daylight and seeing the person who did it is quite easy,” Mr. Garland told the panel.