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Justice Department charges anti-abortion activist with assaulting senior clinic escort

Federal prosecutors have charged an anti-abortion activist in Pennsylvania after he allegedly pushed a 72-year-old clinic escort twice past a Planned Parenthood in Philadelphia last year.

Mark Houck has been charged with violating the Free Clinic Entry Act, a 30-year-old law that makes it a federal crime to use force to injure, intimidate, or interfere with reproductive health services.

If convicted, he faces up to 11 years in prison and a maximum fine of $350,000.

The charges stem from two separate incidents involving a longtime volunteer clinic escort identified in the indictment as BL, who was escorting two patients from the clinic when Mr. Houck allegedly “verbally confronted” BL and allegedly “ pushed with force” to the ground.

BL’s injuries required medical attention, according to federal prosecutors.

The case has sparked a political storm among far-right anti-abortion activists, alleging the case illustrates the ‘militarization of the FBI’ and ‘persecution’ of ‘ordinary Americans’ under President Joe Biden’s administration. , according to the Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania. Doug Mastriano.

“This show of force by the Biden regime against ordinary Americans is an abuse of power that goes against the fundamental principles on which our country was founded,” he said in a statement on Saturday.

BL served as a clinic escort for about 30 years, according to federal prosecutors.

Mr. Houck — the co-founder of The King’s Men, a Catholic outreach group, according to the group’s website — has been protesting outside Planned Parenthood’s Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center for 20 years, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

His group’s website describes him as an “author, speaker, radio host, activist, and passionate Catholic” who “has spoken to thousands of men on a variety of topics related to the development of authentic masculinity” and has written “numerous articles, pamphlets and publications on the topics of pornography, homosexuality, abortion, adolescent sexuality, parenthood and male spirituality.

He demonstrates for several hours every Wednesday in front of the clinic.

His wife Ryan-Marie Houck told far-right Catholic website LifeSiteNews that “25 to 30 FBI agents” arrived at their home about two hours from Philadelphia to make the arrest.

She claimed officers pointed “big, huge guns” at them.

“The children were all screaming. It was all just very scary and traumatic,” she told the website.

The FACE Act was enacted in 1994, drafted in response to a wave of attacks on abortion providers and the murder of Dr David Gunn, who was shot and killed during a protest after his face appeared on “Wanted” style posters made by a group of anti-abortion activists.

Anti-abortion activists killed 11 people – including doctors, clinic workers, a clinic escort, a security guard and a policeman – between 1993 and 2016, according to the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America. At least 26 attempted murders have been recorded during the same period, according to the group.

Over the past 50 years, anti-abortion activists have directed more than 7,200 acts of violence against providers, including 42 bombings, 185 arson attacks and dozens of threats, according to the group.

The Justice Department has also chronicled more than a dozen threats of violence against abortion providers in recent years.

Federal investigators have also been on high alert after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 decision to revoke the constitutional right to abortion care, which sparked a wave of state-level laws banning or severely restricting access to care in more than a dozen states.

Jacqueline Maguire, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia division, said in a statement that “simply put, violence is never the answer.”

“Violating FACE law by committing physical assault is a serious crime for which the FBI will strive to hold violators accountable,” she said.

“Assault is always a serious offense, and under FACE law, if the victim is targeted because of their association with a reproductive health clinic, it is a federal crime,” according to a statement from the US Attorney Anthony Romero. “Our office and the Department of Justice are committed to prosecuting crimes that threaten the safety and rights of all individuals.”

The Independent Gt

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