House Judiciary Republicans are looking into the FBI raid of a Pennsylvania pro-life activist’s home as part of their probe into what they say is the politicization of the Justice Department under Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Reps. Jim Jordan, the ranking member, and Mike Johnson, the constitution subcommittee ranking member, sent a letter Friday asking for documents and communications related to the Sept. 23 arrest of Mark Houck by an estimated 20 agents for alleged violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.
“Several recent actions by the department reinforce the conclusion that the Justice Department is using its federal law-enforcement authority as a weapon against the administration’s political opponents,” the Republicans wrote in the letter to Mr. Garland and Jacqueline C. Romero, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
“We write to conduct oversight of your authorization of a dawn raid of the home of a pro-life leader, in front of his wife and seven children, when he had offered to voluntarily cooperate with authorities,” the letter stated.
The arrest came after Mr. Houck was indicted for pushing a volunteer abortion escort outside a Planned Parenthood in Philadelphia in October 2021, even though local authorities declined to prosecute the case and a judge threw out a civil lawsuit.
Mr. Houck pleaded not guilty last month to two counts related to shoving the 72-year-old volunteer, causing injuries that “required medical intention,” according to the indictment.
Peter Breen, Thomas More Society senior counsel, said Friday that Mr. Houck was trying to protect his 12-year-old son as they did sidewalk counseling outside the gates of the facility from an escort who confronted the boy and yelled in his face.
“The alleged victim, the abortion escort, walked to them, no patients around, no reason to go there, other than to plant himself next to Mark’s son and harass him,” Mr. Breen said in a video post. “A 72-year-old man, this alleged victim, should know better than to go down the sidewalk to harass a 12-year-old boy.”
He also said the society won a case three years ago with the same set of circumstances in Allentown, Pennsylvania, which is in the same federal judicial district.
“When a pro-life sidewalk counselor and an abortion escort are jostling for position on the sidewalk, or they’re having a little disagreement about where are you standing, where am I standing, that’s not a federal violation. It’s a local matter at best,” Mr. Breen said. “Here we have an even stronger case because the alleged victim here was the aggressor.”
Mr. Houck’s wife, Ryan-Marie, said in a Friday video that the FBI agents arrived in about 15 vehicles that covered the family’s lawn, pounded on the door, and entered with firearms drawn after Mr. Houck let them inside.
“Mark says, please I have seven babies in the house. I’m going to open the door, but please, I have seven babies. He just kind of pleaded with them twice,” she said. “So he opens the door and immediately there’s guns pointed at him, a gun pointed at me on the staircase, and then another gun over our threshold, and pointed, kind of like scanning the home. Our children are right there, our door faces our staircase, it’s an open staircase, so essentially they had guns pointed at them.”
At that point the children were crying and screaming, she said, adding that “it’s hard to even wrap my mind around that thought. So it was terrifying.”
The Philadelphia FBI has denied the use of excessive force and personnel, emphasizing that no SWAT team was involved.
“FBI agents knocked on Mr. Houck‘s front door, identified themselves as FBI agents, and asked him to exit the residence. He did so and was taken into custody without incident pursuant to an indictment,” the agency said in a Sept. 27 statement.
House and Senate Republicans have blasted what they describe as the Justice Department’s heavy-handed tactics in the arrest, given that Mr. Houck had said through his attorney that he would turn himself in voluntarily if indicted.
In their letter, the Republicans pointed out that the FACE Act also protects pro-life pregnancy centers, and yet the FBI has made no arrests in the attacks on more than 70 such facilities since the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked May 1.
“The department’s lackluster response to the attacks against pro-life facilities demonstrates that the Biden administration would rather cater to the radical anti-life movement than help facilities that protect pregnant women in need,” Mr. Jordan and Mr. Johnson wrote.
The FBI has released a statement saying it continues to investigate attacks and threats on pregnancy resource centers, adding that it “takes all violence and threats of violence very seriously.”