Raided Pro-Life Activist Sues DOJ
Lawsuit seeks damages for assault, false arrest, abuse of process, malicious & retaliatory prosecution & “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
Pro-life activist Mark Houck and his wife are suing the Department of Justice (DOJ) over its treatment of their family during his harrowing arrest at gunpoint.
The Houcks filed their lawsuits on Nov. 6, seeking damages for assault, false arrest, abuse of process, malicious and retaliatory prosecution, and “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
Mark Houck with his seven children, (L–R) Joshua, Therese, Mark Jr., Imelda, Ava, Kathryn, and Augustine, at their home in Kintnersville, Pa., on March 17, 2023. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
Mr. Houck, a Catholic and a father of seven, was arrested at his home in East Greenville, Pennsylvania, early on Sept. 23, 2022, when his family awoke to find a group of heavily armed FBI agents at their front door.
The arrest stemmed from an October 2021 altercation between Mr. Houck and an elderly Planned Parenthood clinic escort—an incident in which local authorities chose not to bring charges.
More than a year later, however, the DOJ charged Mr. Houck with twice violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, a law that prohibits violent and threatening conduct intended to interfere with an individual’s right to “seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.”
A jury acquitted Mr. Houck of those charges in January. But according to the complaints—filed by the Graves Garrett law firm—he and his family members continue to suffer “severe emotional distress” brought on by his arrest and the fight for his freedom.
“These government agents intentionally sought to assault Mr. Houck and deprive him of his Fourth Amendment rights by using excessive force to arrest him on non-violent charges when he had not threatened law enforcement, did not own a gun, and had offered to turn himself in to authorities if indicted,” one of the complaints notes.
During the raid, agents reportedly pointed their weapons at the activist’s wife, Ryan-Marie Houck, and their children—an act that the lawsuits allege was meant to inflict emotional distress.
Mr. Houck’s complaint also charged that the indictment against him was riddled with factual errors and false statements that could only have been adopted by a grand jury if the DOJ had presented the facts in a malicious way or concealed critical and material information.
According to the lawsuits, the emotional trauma of the raid took such a toll on the Houck children that they all suffer from anxiety and sleep problems. Some of them have also developed deep-seated fears of police, unannounced visitors, and losing their parents.
“Mr. Houck finds it important to be strong for them,” one complaint states. “But carrying his own emotional burden alongside the grief and fear of his wife and seven children has taken an enormous toll on Mr. Houck.”
For Mrs. Houck, the lawsuits claim that the toll of the ordeal hasn’t only manifested in mental and emotional distress but also resulted in three miscarriages.
“Doctors attribute the loss of the babies to the stress of these events and have told the Houcks that they are now infertile as a result. Mr. and Mrs. Houck suffer immense grief and pain from these losses of life and this diagnosis,” the suit states.
Other injuries that the lawsuits list include loss of income and business opportunities following Mr. Houck’s high-profile arrest.
In total, the Houcks are seeking $4.35 million in collective damages.
“This is more than just a lawsuit; it’s a resounding declaration that the era of targeting individuals for their pro-life stance is over,” said Shawn Carney, president and CEO of 40 Days for Life, which is also representing the Houcks.
Mr. Carney said that his organization—for which Mr. Houck has volunteered—has always cooperated with federal law enforcement, but in the wake of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, that dynamic “shifted dramatically.”
“Mark Houck’s home was besieged at gunpoint—an appalling show of force that was completely unwarranted,” he said. “The local authorities saw no crime, yet the DOJ sought to make an example of him.
“We stand up now to safeguard the rights of all Americans who advocate for life. This is a fight for our most essential freedoms, and we are fully equipped and ready to see it through to victory.”
The lawsuits follow Mr. Houck’s announcement in August that he’s running for Congress.
“I know firsthand what it’s like to be attacked by the federal government. I know firsthand how the enemy of the state can be created by virtue of your faith. And I want to protect the 1st District of Pennsylvania and all families in the 1st District from that ever happening to them,” Mr. Houck told Catholic News Agency at the time.
Header featured image (edited) credit: Houck/DOJ Dir./cf.org/news/pro-life
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