Mark Houck, a devoted pro-life Catholic and father of seven, found himself caught in a legal battle against the United States of America after defending his young son from an aggressive Planned Parenthood escort. Known for his dedication as an author, speaker, and sidewalk counselor, Houck would often take his twelve-year-old son with him during his weekly trips to speak outside abortion clinics. However, when the escort confronted his son with ridicule and profanity, Houck stepped in to protect his child. The escort attempted to initiate a private prosecution against Houck, but the case was dismissed when he failed to appear at the hearing.
Almost a year later, on September 23, 2022, the Houck family was shocked when nearly twenty-five FBI agents raided their home, arresting Mark without explanation and taking him to the FBI Headquarters in Philadelphia. The Department of Justice had decided to make an example of Mark, charging him with two felony counts and threatening him with prison time for defending his family and advocating for life.
Despite the Thomas More Society having previously offered to bring Mark in voluntarily if there was a federal case against him, the DOJ chose to demonstrate force in an effort to intimidate Mark and others who minister outside abortion clinics. The prosecution attempted to use the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE Act) against Houck, even though his actions did not constitute a federal violation.
The jury trial began on January 24, 2023, before United States District Judge Gerald J. Pappert in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Just one week later, the jury returned a verdict of "not guilty," acquitting Mark Houck. Defense attorneys Peter Breen and Brian McMonagle, representing the Thomas More Society, successfully argued that the abortion escort was the aggressor in the encounter.
Their victory not only freed Mark and his family from the burden imposed by the Biden administration but also protected the rights of every sidewalk counselor who ministers to women entering abortion clinics."We are, of course, thrilled with the outcome," stated Peter Breen, Thomas More Society Executive Vice President & Head of Litigation. "We took on Goliath – the full might of the United States government – and won. The jury saw through and rejected the prosecution’s discriminatory case, which was harassment from day one.
This is a win for Mark and the entire pro-life movement. The Biden Department of Justice’s intimidation against pro-life people and people of faith has been put in its place."Mark Houck expressed his gratitude to the Thomas More Society, saying, "I'm so grateful to the Thomas More Society! Great lawyers defending me. They said they would defend me as long as it took."
The case of United States of America v. Mark Houck serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of standing up for one’s beliefs and the vital role that legal advocates like the Thomas More Society play in protecting the rights of individuals in the face of government overreach.