Garland grilled by Senate Republicans over pro-life prosecutions

by Chris Lange

Chris Lange, FISM News


Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee grilled Attorney General Merrick Garland on Capitol Hill Wednesday over alleged disparities between the Justice Department’s prosecutions of pro-life versus pro-abortion activists.

Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.-R) confronted Garland over the FBI’s arrest of a Catholic pro-life father during a raid on his home.

“You used an unbelievable show of force, with guns I might note that liberals usually decry,” Hawley said.

We’re supposed to hate long guns and assault style weapons, [but] you’re happy to deploy them against Catholics and innocent children. Happy to. And then you haul him into court and a jury acquits him in one hour. I just suggest to you that that is a disgraceful performance by your Justice Department and a disgraceful use of resources.

Pro-life activist Mark Houck was acquitted by a jury on Jan. 30 following a trial in federal court on charges alleging that he violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which bans the use of force and intimidation to interfere with clinic workers. Federal officials had claimed that Houck assaulted an abortion clinic worker, while he said he was protecting his 12-year-old son from a pro-abortion activist who aggressively approached the boy in an obscenity-laced tirade.


Conservative lawmakers expressed outrage upon learning of the FBI’s September raid on Houck’s home, during which agents arrested the sidewalk counselor at gunpoint in front of his children, who cried and pleaded with the officers not to take their father away.

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz pointed out to Garland that the 20 agents who descended upon the Houck residence did so despite the fact that Garland knew full well that Houck had agreed to turn himself in to counsel.

“You didn’t want that. The Department of Justice wanted to make a show of it,” Cruz asserted. 

“Did you personally authorize [the raid], and do you want to apologize to Mrs. Houck and her seven children who were terrorized?” he demanded.

Garland replied that “decisions about how to do that are made at the level of FBI agents on scene” before Cruz cut him off.

“Did you know about it?” the senator pressed.

“I did not know about it until — the way you are describing it — my understanding is that the FBI disagrees with that description,” Garland said.


Sen. Hawley also brought up a leaked FBI memo calling for the infiltration of Roman Catholic groups the Bureau referred to as “radical-traditionalist Catholic[s]” (RTCs) to mitigate potential threats of domestic extremism.

“Attorney General, are you cultivating sources and spies in Latin mass parishes and other Catholic parishes around the country?” Hawley demanded.

“The Justice Department does not do that, it does not do investigations based on religion,” Garland responded. “I saw the document you have, it’s appalling, I’m in complete agreement with you. I understand that the FBI has withdrawn it and is now looking into how this could ever have happened.”

The Missouri Senator shot back: “I’ll tell you how it happened. This memorandum, which is supposed to be intelligence, cites extensively the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) which goes on to identify all these different Catholics as being part of hate groups.”

Garland denied Hawley’s assertion that the DOJ has a “problem with anti-Catholic bias.”

“Given the resources that you are expending and the … intelligence assets that you are deploying against Catholics, it appears — and other people of faith — while simultaneously turning a blind eye while people are executed gang style on the streets of our cities … your answer, frankly, surprises me,” the senator said.


Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah called on Garland to explain why it is that pro-life protesters are routinely targeted with prosecutions while violent attacks on religious organizations and pregnancy help centers perpetrated by pro-abortion activists that include firebombs and death threats have been largely ignored.

Garland responded that “it is quite easy” to go after pro-life demonstrators because they are frequently photographed in daylight, whereas pro-abortion activists carry out their activities under the shadow of darkness.

“I will say you’re quite right, there are many more prosecutions with respect to the blocking of the … of the abortion centers but that is generally because they are … those actions are taken with photography at the time, during the daylight and seeing the person who did it is quite easy,” Garland said. “Those who are attacking the pregnancy resources centers, which is a hard thing to do, are doing this at night in the dark,” he added.


Conservatives have long argued that the FACE Act was crafted by the Biden administration as a means of silencing opponents of the administration’s radical, progressive agenda, something Garland denied. 

“[The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act] applies equally in both cases and we apply the law equally,” Garland insisted under questioning. He pointed out that the Justice Department had recently posted a reward for information about the attacks on crisis pregnancy centers.

FISM’s Lauren C. Moye reported in December that Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta admitted that the DOJ has been laser-focused on FACE Act prosecutions “to ensure continued lawful access to reproductive services.”

“Arrests of pro-life advocates have dominated charges made under the FACE Act, even though the equally protected pregnancy resource clinics have endured continued violent attacks since the overturning of Roe v. Wade – instances that have largely gone unprosecuted,” Moye wrote.

This article was partially informed by a Daily Caller report.