Pro-life win: Jury rules sidewalk counselor Mark Houck not guilty of violating FACE Act

by Jacob Fuller
Pro-life activist arrested at Pennsylvania home during FBI raid

Lauren C. Moye, FISM News

Pro-life advocate and sidewalk counselor Mark Houck, 48, has been cleared of wrongdoing after a federal jury ruled on Monday that he did not violate the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.

The devout Catholic and father of seven made headlines last year when the FBI raided his home over charges that he twice shoved a Planned Parenthood escort to the ground in violation of the FACE Act, which bans the use of force and intimidation to interfere with clinic workers. At that time, Houck had already signaled a willingness to cooperate if the Department of Justice pursued the charges, which stemmed from an event that happened almost a year earlier.

A federal jury acquitted Houck of two separate FACE violation charges yesterday. The news was celebrated by the pro-life community and supporters of the Pennsylvania man.

“We are thrilled with the outcome,” Peter Breen, an attorney on Houck’s defense team, said. “Mark and his family are now free of the cloud that the Biden administration threw upon them. We took on Goliath – the full might of the United States government – and won.”

“I’m George Bailey today. I’m George Bailey,” Houck said outside the courthouse, referencing the protagonist of the holiday movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

However, the path to freedom for Houck was not a simple matter. The jury originally began verdict deliberations on Friday which stalled out. When they resumed on Monday, an alternate juror eventually had to be called in. It only took one hour for the not guilty verdict to be reached after this occurred.


The case stems from alleged events that occurred on Oct. 13, 2021, when Bruce Love approached Houck’s 12-year-old son while allegedly verbally and profanely harassing the child. Houck told Fox News that he walked Love back to his usual spot on the sidewalk. However, the man once again approached the child.

Houck has never denied pushing Love but has denied that he violated the FACE Act. At the time of the incident, Love was not actively escorting Planned Parenthood clients.

He faced up to eleven years in prison for the charges if convicted.

In an important case note, the defense lawyers of the not-for-profit Thomas More Society presented evidence in the trial that the FACE Act was never intended to protect escorts outside the building according to the bill’s own sponsor, former Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), who directly said that escorts do not meet the bill’s requirements of providing reproductive health services in a facility.


The acquittal comes over four months after an FBI raid when nearly two dozen armed agents stormed Houck’s residence. Some of his children witnessed his arrest. His wife, Ryan-Marie, said later that guns were pointed up the stairs where the children stood at the time of the arrest.

In conducting their raid, the FBI ignored prior communication that Houck would cooperate with a summons. They also ignored that previous charges had been filed locally by Love, which were dropped.

The DOJ has not answered why the extreme use of force was warranted. This has led some to speculate that Houck was caught in a Biden administration crackdown on pro-life rights, since in July 2022, the DOJ organized a reproductive rights task force.

Even though the FACE Act is also meant to protect pro-life clinics, charges resulting from the legislation skewed heavily against pro-life activists in the past year. There have been two indictments of pro-abortion activists under the FACE Act compared to 26 pro-life individuals.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said the Justice Department should be “ashamed” for targeting Houck:

“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,” Breen said in a statement following the verdict.