Pro-life activist Mark Houck and his wife, Ryan-Marie Houck, are suing the federal Department of Justice over the DOJ’s treatment of their family, accusing the DOJ of a “faulty” investigation that led to an excessively forceful arrest and a “malicious and retaliatory prosecution” that has severely impacted their entire family.
Houck is a Catholic father of seven who was arrested and charged with violating the Freedom of Access to Abortion Clinic Entrances, or FACE, Act by President Joe Biden’s administration. A jury found him not guilty of the federal charges in January, and he announced in August that he is running for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District.
The DOJ’s FACE Act charges stemmed from a 2021 incident outside a Philadelphia-based Planned Parenthood where Houck pushed an abortion clinic volunteer who was repeatedly harassing his son, Mark Jr. Local authorities ultimately dismissed the matter—until the Biden DOJ re-upped it in response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Mark and Ryan-Marie Houck believe they were targeted by the Biden DOJ in an effort to intimidate, silence, and scare the family for their pro-life work—praying outside abortion clinics for the women headed inside to abort their unborn babies.
“This lawsuit will send a strong message to the DOJ that the United States of America does not belong to [Attorney General] Merrick Garland or the FBI; it belongs to all Americans, despite our many disagreements on different issues,” said Shawn Carney, president of the pro-life organization 40 Days for Life, which is representing Houck. “We all believe that we should have the right to free speech and be protected from unlawful infringement by our own government.”
He added: “Mark and his wife have valid and critical claims against the government that raided their house and pointed guns at them and their screaming children. Mark, his wife, and their seven children have been devastated by this horrific event, which should never have happened if not for the bigotry of our compromised DOJ.”
Houck and his wife filed their lawsuits against the DOJ on Monday but did not formally announce the news until Wednesday morning. Their complaints detail the trauma that the entire family suffered when they discovered armed FBI agents banging on their door early in the morning on Sept. 23, 2022.
Mark Houck’s suit describes this arrest as an “unnecessary and unlawful show of force,” accusing the agents of intentionally seeking to assault him 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 into authorities if indicted.”
Ryan-Marie Houck’s complaint describes how profoundly her husband’s arrest has impacted their children, Mark Jr., Ava Marie, Kathryn, Therese, Joshua, Augustine, and Imelda.
“Her children have also suffered immense emotional trauma and physical manifestations of stress that Mrs. Houck has carried alone while her husband was away during his imprisonment and prosecution,” the complaint says.
Most tragically of all, her complaint says, Ryan-Marie and Mark Houck have lost three babies through miscarriages “due to the stress of the FBI’s conduct and resulting prosecution.”
“The stress of these events was so difficult that the Houcks have been diagnosed with infertility,” the complaint says.
It describes in detail how Ryan-Marie Houck has suffered “severe emotional distress and physical manifestations of stress and post-traumatic stress” since the Sept. 23, 2022, raid, noting that the stress of these events has taken “an immense toll on her body.”
In addition to the “trauma, paranoia, and anxiety she has suffered,” the suit says, “she now carries the grief of losing three children and the pain of infertility.”
Mrs. Houck has also shouldered the emotional distress of caring for her seven children and their individual needs as they each process their own trauma from these events. The children continually come to her crying and suffering from nightmares. They slept in bed with her and her husband for the first month after the arrest, and they continue to ask to sleep in their parents’ bed. The children are easily triggered whenever the situation is brought up or unannounced guests arrive at the property, and she spends a significant amount of time counseling and comforting them.
Ryan-Marie Houck is seeking $3.25 million in damages for herself and for her children. Mark Houck seeks $1.1 million for malicious prosecution, retaliatory prosecution, false arrest, abuse of process, and assault.
Harm to the Houck Children
Thirteen-year-old Mark Jr., who “shouldered the emotional burdens of his mother his younger siblings” during his father’s arrest and prosecution, suffers from “immense anxiety” compounded by his “continual sleep deprivation and nightmares from the stress.” He and his siblings are seriously emotionally triggered if they encounter law enforcement in public as well as by the arrival of unexpected guests upon the property.
Eleven-year-old Ava Marie has “taken on an immense amount of stress” as she cares for her younger siblings in the aftermath of her father’s arrest and prosecution, the complaint says, causing her to endure severe sleep deprivation and nightmares and forcing her to take sleep medication in order to rest. “A once happy eleven-year-old girl, she now carries a great deal of sadness from the trauma of these events,” the complaint says.
Ten-year-old Kathryn has “experienced a severe loss of joy and deep sadness at her young age,” suffering from “severe anxiety and worry” and carrying “deep-seated fears that she will lose her father.” She also suffers from severe sleep deprivation and nightmares.
Nine-year-old Therese is the “most deeply traumatized of the children,” as the memory of SWAT personnel “staring her down at the back door” continues to haunt her to this day. Like her siblings, she struggles to sleep and with severe anxiety.
Seven-year-old Joshua, who was 6 years old at the time of the arrest, sobbed as he watched the FBI take his father away at gunpoint, yelling, “Please don’t take him, he is my best friend.” According to the complaint, Joshua becomes emotional if anyone mentions that day, is constantly worried about losing his father and his mother, and suffers from severe sleep deprivation like his siblings.
Four-year-old Augustine “cannot express in words the amount of worry and trauma he has suffered,” though he will often shout and cry for his parents, according to Ryan-Marie Houck’s complaint. He has started sleep-walking from the stress, and the suit describes him as “deeply impacted and traumatized by the raid and subsequent prosecution.”
Two-year-old Imelda, the youngest Houck, carries “deep-seated trauma.” She similarly suffers from anxiety and poor sleep, the complaint says.
Carney, president of 40 Days for Life, emphasized to The Daily Signal that “the harassment from the DOJ toward 40 Days for Life volunteers, including Mark Houck and his family, has been the most extreme example of government overreach in decades.”
“Everyone in our nation can see the blatant bigotry the DOJ has shown toward pro-life Americans and Catholic Americans, but many feel helpless to do anything about it,” he said. “Mark Houck is one man who can, and thank God he is willing to, stand up to this radical government overreach and abuse of power.”
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