January 23, 2023

Attorneys for Sidewalk Counselor Arrested by FBI Reveal Defense During Pretrial Hearing

Sidewalk counselor Mark Houck, who was arrested on FACE Act charges by a group of armed FBI agents at his home last September, had a pretrial hearing last week. Houck is represented by the Thomas More Society, which revealed a surprising argument in Houck's defense.

Mark Houck was charged with violating the FACE Act for pushing a clinic escort who was harassing Houck's son outside the clinic. City police declined to file assault charges. The escort's private criminal complaint was dismissed after the escort repeatedly failed to appear in court.

The Thomas More Society argues that FACE Act was expressly intended to exclude escorts operating outside abortion clinics. This is because escorts do not provide "reproductive health services" inside a facility, as required by the FACE Act.

“The FACE Act was never intended to cover disputes between advocates on the public sidewalks outside of our nation’s abortion clinics,” declared Thomas More Society Executive Vice President & Head of Litigation Peter Breen, who is representing Houck. “This new evidence shows clearly that Congress intended to limit the FACE Act to patients and staff working in the clinic, and not to take sides between pro-life and pro-choice counselors and escorts on the sidewalk. The Biden Department of Justice’s prosecution of Mark Houck is pure harassment, meant solely to intimidate our nation’s pro-life sidewalk counselors who provide vital resources to help pregnant women at risk for abortion.”

The Thomas More Society highlighted a bipartisan amendment they negotiated to prevent clinic escorts from filing lawsuits under the FACE Act.