Some 20 law enforcement officers, including many with ballistic shields, long guns, and a battering ram, swarmed outside the home of Mark Houck in late September 2022 to arrest, at gunpoint, the father of seven on an indictment charging him with violating the Federal Access to Clinic Entrances or “FACE” Act. But it was the purported escort for Planned Parenthood whom Houck allegedly pushed, and not Houck, who violated the FACE Act, according to a recent court filing. And the Biden administration’s selective use of the FACE Act to prosecute pro-lifers compels the dismissal of the charges against Houck, his attorneys argued earlier this week.
On Sept. 20, 2022, the Department of Justice charged Houck in a two-count federal indictment with alleged violations of the FACE Act related to two encounters Houck had with Bruce Love. First, according to the indictment, on Oct. 13, 2021, Houck shoved Love to the ground as the latter “attempted to escort two [Planned Parenthood patients.]” (The indictment referred to Love as “B.L.” throughout, but his name appears in a search of the Philadelphia court records.) The second count alleged that on Oct. 13, 2021, Houck “verbally confronted” B.L. and then “forcefully shoved B.L. to the ground in front of the [Planned Parenthood facility], causing injuries to B.L. that required medical attention.”
However, as I previously reported, these allegations conflicted with the private criminal complaint Love filed against Houck shortly after the encounter. That criminal complaint, obtained in October by The Federalist, revealed that Love described only one incident with Houck and made no mention of attempting to escort Planned Parenthood clients. According to his state criminal complaint, Houck “was standing on the corner and [Love] was standing a few feet away from [Houck] waiting for clients. [Houck] stated to [Love] to stay away from him and that he will push [Love] into the street. As [Love] was walking away from [Houck], [Love] states [Houck] pushed [Love] causing him to fall to the ground.” The complaint then notes that Love notified the police and sought medical treatment a few days later.
The state criminal complaint was later dismissed, only to have the Biden administration obtain a federal FACE Act indictment in October, with charges still pending in a Philadelphia federal court.
But now, Houck seeks dismissal of the federal charges. And in a motion to dismiss filed earlier this week, attorneys for the pro-life father explain the disparity between Love’s state criminal complaint and the federal indictment and in doing so expose the Department of Justice’s duplicity.
Facts of the Case
Count one of the indictment, the motion to dismiss notes, alleges Houck “shoved” Love as Love “attempted to escort two [Planned Parenthood] patients.” “But the Indictment blatantly omits that, indisputably, any physical contact occurred outside a pregnancy resource center across the street from the abortion facility approximately 100 feet away, and only once Mr. Love had overtaken and obstructed Mr. Houck,” the motion to dismiss continues. The two woman had already left the abortion facility, and it was after then that they spoke with Houck, who then, as Houck’s motion explains, proceeded “to direct the two women into the pregnancy center.”
According to a witness of the incident, “Love saw the three conversing and left his post at the abortion facility entrance to ‘intercept’ them.” Then, according to the brief, “near the pregnancy center, Mr. Love overtook the three and positioned himself to obstruct Mr. Houck from proceeding, with Mr. Love alleging that Mr. Houck ‘told Love to get out of the way.’” It was at this point that Love and Houck came into contact and Love fell to the ground.
While there is a disagreement about the type of contact involved — the indictment alleged Houck pushed Love, Love said Houck pulled his arm, and a witness claimed Houck “hip checked” Love — for purposes of the FACE Act, what matters is that the two women were, according to the motion to dismiss, heading to the pregnancy center and not the abortion facility.
That fact matters because the FACE Act criminalizes “the use of physical force” or “physical obstruction” to “intimidate” or “interfere with” any person “obtaining or providing reproductive health services,” and that includes both life-affirming pregnancy services and life-ending abortions. Thus, under the facts detailed in Houck’s motion to dismiss, it was Love’s conduct that fell within the FACE Act since he allegedly physically obstructed their attempts to obtain reproductive health services at the pregnancy resource center.
The second half of the equation, then, is that Houck could not have violated the FACE Act when he made contact with Love outside the pregnancy resource center because Love was not at the time assisting the women to obtain reproductive health services.
Likewise, the FACE Act charge set forth in the second count of the federal indictment omitted any reference to Love attempting to assist any Planned Parenthood clients in obtaining “reproductive health services.” And it was similarly deceptive by alleging that Houck “verbally confronted Mr. Love and forcefully shoved” him to the ground “in front of the” abortion facility,” but ignoring, what the motion to dismiss claimed was indisputable, that “it was Mr. Love who approached and verbally confronted Mr. Houck and his then-12-year-old son approximately 50 feet away from the abortion facility’s entrance, and who turned directly into Mr. Houck after Mr. Houck directed him to get away.”
Because the FACE Act requires the government to establish that Houck acted “because” Love was providing “reproductive health services,” and because the evidence fails to establish any nexus between the physical encounters and Love escorting women, Houck argues the government cannot establish the elements of the crimes and says the case against him should be dismissed. Case law supports Houck’s position and alone justifies the dismissal of the criminal charges.
Motion to Dismiss
But in this case, Houck presents a strong secondary basis for dismissal of the indictment: the Biden administration’s selective prosecution of the FACE Act. Here, Houck first argues that the undisputed facts indicate it was Love who violated the FACT Act by interfering with his pro-life counseling and escort services, yet the Biden administration failed to indict Love. Houck then highlights the Biden administration’s failure “to prosecute any of the more than 150 incidents of violence against pro-life pregnancy centers and churches nationwide in the wake of the leak and publishing of Dobbs.”
“The Government’s refusal to apply FACE to pro-choice/abortion individuals like Mr. Love,” Houck argues, “while simultaneously and aggressively applying it to pro-life individuals like Mr. Houck — and more than 20 other pro-life individuals in 2022 — is unconstitutionally selective and viewpoint discriminatory.”
While it is rare for a court to dismiss a case based on selective prosecution, Houck’s attorneys present a strong argument for dismissal on that basis, which would be a damning indictment of the Biden administration. The court may never reach that question, though, because the FACE Act claims appear to be doomed given the lack of a connection between Houck’s push and any provision of so-called “reproductive health services.”
Dismissal of the charges against Houck, however, is not nearly enough. Rather, the Biden administration and the DOJ deserve censure not merely for the excessive use of force in arresting Houck, but for presenting the grand jury with partial and deceptive evidence to secure an indictment against Houck based on his pro-life stance, while ignoring the violent targeting of pregnancy resource centers — proving once again that the left is not pro-choice but pro-abortion.