Anti-abortion activist Mark Houck sues DOJ over ‘retaliatory’ arrest

Mark Houck‘s life was changed forever in the fall of 2022 after he was arrested at gunpoint in front of his family following an investigation into his anti-abortion activism outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Philadelphia. 

After the Pennsylvania-based Catholic father’s acquittal by a jury in January 2023, Houck is demanding accountability for the Department of Justice in a new lawsuit filed this week. The complaint names six police officers, including four unknown officers, that aided the FBI’s investigation and execution of the “needless” raid of Houck’s home, his attorney Matt Britton told the Washington Examiner.

Anti-abortion activist Mark Houck and his family. (Thomas More Society)

The suit was brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act, accusing the DOJ under the Biden administration of “malicious prosecution, retaliatory prosecution, abuse of process, false arrest, assault, and intentional infliction of emotional distress committed by federal employees and agents against Mr. Houck, Mrs. Houck, and their children,” according to the 79-page lawsuit.

Houck was accused of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances, or FACE, Act, with prosecutors alleging that he “forcefully shoved” Philadelphia-based Planned Parenthood volunteer Bruce Love. He denied that he attacked Love and said that the volunteer had engaged in vulgar and harassing behavior toward his son, and he claimed that he only shoved Love to protect his child. A jury ultimately acquitted him of all charges he faced in January last year; the charges could have sent him to prison for up to 11 years.

The abrupt raid on the 49-year-old Catholic activist’s house drew widespread condemnation from conservatives who accused the Department of Justice of unfairly targeting anti-abortion activists.

Houck’s new lawsuit is backed by activist group 40 Days for Life’s recently launched Institute of Law & Justice. Shawn Carney, president and CEO of 40 Days for Life, told the Washington Examiner that ILJ aims to provide “essential” legal support to his group and its campaign leaders to ensure “they are protected from the increasing harassment and targeted actions by the DOJ.”

Before the 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade, Carney’s group relied greatly on men and women at the FBI and DOJ for safety during vigils.

“This cooperation spanned multiple administrations, from Obama to Trump and even the early Biden administration,” Carney said. “However, once Roe was overturned, pro-lifers across the nation, including Mark Houck, faced unprecedented attacks and targeting from the DOJ.”

But after the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe, Carney said 40 Days for Life started to receive “at times” one to two targeted inquiries by the FBI against law-abiding volunteers. Once the group filed a Notice of Claim in November making the DOJ aware of their litigation plans against the federal government, Carney said “essentially all harassment ceased.”

In order to sue the federal government, a person must file a notice of claims before he or she can file the actual lawsuit six months later, which is why Houck’s lawsuit was filed May 20.

“The federal government didn’t even bother to respond to the Notice of Claim,” Britton said. With the newly filed lawsuit, the federal government will no longer be able to evade responding to the new suit brought by ILJ.

Last November, the anti-abortion activist’s wife, Ryan-Marie Houck, also filed a separate lawsuit seeking $3.25 million in damages against the DOJ for the “substantial emotional distress” their family faced during the September raid on their home.

“At the time of the raid, when she was only nine years old, she witnessed SWAT personnel staring her down at the back door … This memory continues to haunt her to this day,” Ryan-Marie Houck’s family complaint reads, referring to the effect of the raid on her daughter.


Houck also announced a bid for Congress in August last year to primary Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) but ultimately lost to the congressman.

Read Houck’s lawsuit against the DOJ:

2024 05.20 Complaint by Kaelan Deese on Scribd

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