The federal arrest of an anti-abortion activist has sparked a firestorm of criticism and accusations of a double standard in the enforcement of reproductive care center protections.
Mark Houck, the founder of a Catholic ministry in Pennsylvania, was arrested on Friday by FBI agents for allegedly violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which protects reproductive care facilities of all types from threats or attacks.
The arrest sparked outrage not only because of the Justice Department’s controversial use of the FACE Act in what critics called a flimsy case, but also because it occurred before the FBI made any arrests in more than a dozen other recent cases involving anti-abortion center violence.
Houck was accused of shoving a pro-abortion rights volunteer who was escorting patients into and out of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Philadelphia. The incident occurred in October of last year, and Houck’s wife claimed that more than two dozen agents descended on their home on Friday and arrested Houck in front of his family.
While the FBI denied dispatching a SWAT team, it did not deny that a large number of agents were involved in the arrest.
On a fundraising page for Houck’s family, two of his friends claimed that “agents had guns drawn and shields up in the faces of Mark, his wife, and their seven young children.”
What came before the federal indictment added to the scrutiny.
Houck’s wife stated that the pro-abortion rights activist whom her husband allegedly shoved had previously attempted to sue Houck for the incident, but the lawsuit was dismissed by a court.
According to Houck’s family and friends, the activist was shouting obscenities at Houck’s 12-year-old son on the day in question and eventually got physically close to the boy as he yelled, prompting Houck to push him away.
“Look, the district attorney in Philly is very far leftist — and he refused to file criminal charges,” Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, told the Washington Examiner.
According to the Justice Department, the FACE Act, under which Houck was charged, “prohibits threats of force, obstruction, and property damage intended to interfere with reproductive health care services.”
The statute expressly protects “pro-life pregnancy counseling services and any other pregnancy support facility providing reproductive health care,” a number of which have come under fire since the May leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion revealing that justices planned to overturn Roe v. Wade.
According to Fox News, an abortion rights extremist group calling itself “Jane’s Revenge” has claimed responsibility for at least 18 incidents of vandalism, arson, and property destruction at anti-abortion pregnancy centers.
The Family Research Council, a conservative organization, claims credit for 58 anti-abortion center attacks, according to its most recent count, but Jane’s Revenge has not claimed credit for all of them.
No arrests or public announcements were made in any of the 18 attacks claimed by Jane’s Revenge.
The FBI, according to Rev. James Harden, CEO of CompassCare Pregnancy Services, has effectively stonewalled his organization since Jane’s Revenge claimed responsibility for firebombing the organization’s Buffalo, New York, center in June.
Harden claims that FBI agents informed him in mid-September that they planned to visit the Buffalo center on Friday to assess the height of security cameras, which show the suspects smashing windows and torching the facility.
However, the FBI canceled the scheduled visit last week, according to Harden; agents told him they had “other priorities.” Harden said his organization handed over surveillance footage of the attack to the local police, which are working with the FBI, months ago and has been unable to view a copy of the footage despite repeated requests to have the material returned.