Early in the morning on Sept. 23, 2022, the Houcks’ home was raided by approximately 20 armed FBI agents. During the raid, Houck, a regular pro-life sidewalk counselor outside the Elizabeth Blackwell Planned Parenthood in Philadelphia, was arrested at gunpoint in front of his wife and children for two alleged violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.
Houck was accused of intimidating and shoving an elderly Planned Parenthood volunteer and thus obstructing access to reproductive services, in violation of the FACE Act.
The incidents, which took place on Oct. 13, 2021, had already been dismissed by local authorities. Houck said he pushed the volunteer because he was trying to protect his 12-year-old son, who was being harassed by the Planned Parenthood worker.
Though Houck and his attorneys had previously offered to cooperate with any federal investigation, his home was nonetheless raided months after making the offer.
The notice said that the raid violated Houck’s personal liberty in his home, “a place where he felt responsible to his wife and his children as their family protector.”
“Officers purposely surprised and shocked him with guns drawn, and then humiliated him in front of his family,” the notice said. “He was not only made to appear as a criminal to his wife and children. More importantly, the core of his identity as a father and family protector was violated in the most vivid way possible, seared into the memory of Mr. Houck and his loved ones.”
“Mr. Houck’s oldest son unsuccessfully attempted to shield his younger siblings from seeing their father arrested by armed agents,” the notice went on. “The children stood on the stairs screaming, crying, and watching in terror as heavily armed agents hauled their father away.”
The notice also said that the FBI “further degraded” Houck and “used intimidation tactics throughout the booking process” despite his complete cooperation.
According to the notice, the FBI officers “forced him to walk in chains and handcuffs to the U.S. Marshal’s service.”
“As Mr. Houck was forced to shuffle along in his chains, the foot shackles dug into his ankles, leaving scrapes and cuts in his flesh,” the notice said.
On Jan. 30, 2023, Houck was unanimously acquitted in federal court of all charges of violating the FACE Act.
(Story continues below)
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The Houcks press charges
Houck’s notice points out that the FBI and DOJ ignored the fact that he was also a reproductive rights worker in his capacity as a volunteer at the Community Women’s Center of America pregnancy center, and thus had equal standing under the FACE Act with the Planned Parenthood volunteer.
The notice alleges that although the FBI had the available evidence to realize its investigation was based on several factual errors regarding the Oct. 13 incident, the bureau chose to pursue charges anyway.
“The FBI targeted Mr. Houck for indictment without probable cause because of his beliefs, his public prayer and speech, and the fact that he is a counselor associated with a crisis pregnancy center,” the notice said.
“This decision by the FBI,” the suit notice said, “was contrary to the DOJ’s public policy, which maintains that the FACE Act ‘is not about abortions’ and ‘protects all patients, providers, and facilities, including pro-life counseling services,’ but it was fully in accordance with the extrajudicial statements of the DOJ leadership that pro-life services are ‘fake’ and ‘predatory’ upon abortion rights. The FBI’s decision was therefore malicious, intended to accomplish an illicit corrupt purpose not in the interest of justice and in violation of Mr. Houck’s clearly established First Amendment rights and his rights under the common law to be free of malicious and retaliatory prosecution.”
The results, as stated by both notices, have been devastating for the Houck family.