Here’s a lightly edited transcript of what Mark Houck, a pro-life dad who was arrested last year at gunpoint and then later acquitted by a jury, told House lawmakers during a hearing Tuesday. The hearing, “Revisiting the Implications of the FACE Act,” was held by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government:
Twenty years ago, I began pro-life work in the city of Philadelphia. I did peaceful protests and prayer vigils in front of many abortuary facilities in Philadelphia. They have always been peaceful. I want to bring you to Oct. 13th, 2021, where I was with my son, 12-year-old son, praying in front of an abortuary in Philadelphia.
On that day, a couple of women walked out of the facility. I began to offer them literature, as I always do, with compassion, love, and great respect. In fact, I was 50 feet away from the entrance of the building. I’d proceeded to walk with those women across the street, making me about 100 feet away from the entrance to the building, to a crisis pregnancy center, pregnancy resource center, which was about 6 feet away from me.
At that time, an escort in the building decided to run over, impede my progress and get in the way of me ministering and talking to the women that had left Planned Parenthood [at] 12th and Locust Streets in Philadelphia. At that point, we exchanged some words, we went back to where we were praying, and I continued to pray with my 12-year-old son.
About 20 minutes later, the escort—his name is Bruce Love, I’ve known him for years, I’ve known him for 20 years—came out of the building. He made a direct line towards my son, stood right next to my son. Again, we’re about 50 feet from the entrance to the building. [He] stood right next to my 12-year-old boy who was a little intimidated and scared by this. I asked him if he could please give him some space. He did not, he has a right to be there. We just continued to pray.
He continued to talk to me and offer insults to me, which, of course, he’s done before and it was never a problem for me and I didn’t listen to it. But then he started to begin to talk to my son.
Now, he’s talked to my son before. In fact, I believe he taught my son the F-word. I’m a homeschool dad, and that’s the reality of it. Nonetheless, he begins to talk to my son and badger my son and starts telling my son how evil his father is and how his father doesn’t want to help women.
I instructed him to step away and to go back to where he normally stands in front of the building, which he did not. He continued to badger my son. After a repeated requests not to stand next to my son, I escorted him back to where he normally stands, which he did comply. I turned around to face my son and go back to pray, and he turned around and began to badger my son again. At that point, I became a dad on the street, concerned for my son. I did push the man, he did fall down.
We went, we prayed for the man, we returned to the scene, I presented my information to the Civil Affairs Department. That day, I gave my information. I want you to know that the Philadelphia [police department] and the [district attorney] in Philadelphia, as well as the Civil Affairs Department, did not intend to prosecute. They had no interest in that.
I was put in a private criminal complaint, which was dismissed. I want to take you to April 22nd when it was dismissed. Five days later, this was 2022, I was served a target letter on the same street corner with my 12-year-old boy, a target letter that I was a target of a federal indictment.
Fast forward to Sept. 23rd, my attorneys reached out initially at the target letter, stating that we would peacefully present ourself to the district—there would be no need to come out to his house and disrupt his family and cause any trauma to them. That he’s a peaceful man, he will come in. We said that. In August of 2022, my attorney reached out to me and says, “Have you heard from the assistant U.S. attorney?” I said, “No.” “She won’t return my phone calls,” he says. I said, “Well, maybe we’ll just let sleeping dogs lie.”
On Sept. 23rd, my home was raided by 10 unmarked and marked units, state troopers, federal law enforcement personnel. I had five federal agents on my doorstep at 6:30 in the morning with long guns pointed at me and my seven children.
They banged on the door and they said, “Open up.” They did not even declare who they were that day. They didn’t even ask me, “Could you please open the door? We’re the FBI.” They just said, “Open up.” I went to the door, I was up. I said, “Who is it?” They said, “It’s the FBI, open up.”
So I opened up the door peacefully. I said, “Please stay calm, I have 7 babies in here.” They pointed M16 guns at me and my wife, my wife comes down, says, “Do you have a warrant for his arrest?” They said, “We’re taking him with or without a warrant.” My wife said, “You can’t do that, that’s kidnapping.”
We proceeded to go into a 4-and-a-half-month trial, as you know and have said previously, that we were acquitted of, but I was facing 11 years in prison and I had every prospect in my heart that I would be in federal prison away from my 7 children.
Thankfully, we were able to be acquitted, and I’m blessed to be able to share the story today. Thank you.
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