Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) accused the Justice Department of “overreach” after federal authorities arrested an anti-abortion protester for allegedly assaulting an elderly Planned Parenthood volunteer twice in one day.
“Just in the last few days we’ve seen some pretty glaring examples of what appear to be instances of overreach,” Lee said of the DOJ in an interview with Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo. After first mentioning a group that was federally subpoenaed regarding its lobbying for an anti-trans health care bill in Alabama, Lee spoke about an anti-abortion protester charged with assaulting a Planned Parenthood volunteer. Lee, however, conveniently didn’t bring up the alleged assault.
“You’ve got a Catholic father of seven who formed a group designed to encourage young men to be faithful to their commitments, arrested in front of his seven children just recently,” Lee said. “You’ve got all these instances of overreach. It’s deeply concerning to us all. These are all things we’re gonna be looking into.”
The Catholic father of seven is Mark Houck, and the Department of Justice on Friday charged him with two counts of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. The DOJ has accused Houck of twice assaulting a 72-year-old volunteer patient escort at the Planned Parenthood Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center in Philadelphia. According to the DOJ indictment obtained by The Daily Beast, the 47-year-old Houck “forcefully shoved B.L. to the ground” and then, in a second altercation the same day, “verbally confronted B.L. and forcefully shoved B.L. to the ground.” Houck did this “because B.L. was a volunteer escort at the reproductive health care clinic,” the indictment said. The second assault caused “injuries to B.L. that required medical attention.”
“Assault is always a serious offense, and under the FACE Act, if the victim is targeted because of their association with a reproductive health care clinic, it is a federal crime,” U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Romero said in the statement.
Houck’s wife, Ryan-Marie Houck, said in an interview with Catholic anti-abortion website LifeSiteNews that police and federal agents surrounded their family home to arrest her husband. After she opened the door to the authorities, she said, “they had big, huge rifles pointed at Mark and pointed at me and kind of pointed throughout the house” while their seven children were home. Houck’s wife also claimed that the clinic escort was saying “crude” things to her then 12-year-old son before the alleged incidents and “kind of came into [the son’s] personal space.” She said her husband drives to Philadelphia one day each week to spend 6-8 hours protesting reproductive health clinics.
The FACE Act makes it a federal crime to use force, threats, or physical obstruction to block the entrance to reproductive health clinics. If convicted, Houck could face as many as 11 years in prison and three years of supervised release, in addition to a possible maximum fine of $350,000.
The alleged assault has not stopped MAGA media from attempting to make the case an exhibit of conservative persecution.
“You’ve got all these instances of overreach. It’s deeply concerning to us all. These are all things we’re going to be looking into,” Lee said, promising oversight if Republicans are victorious in the midterms.
“Yeah,” Bartiromo agreed, “Not to mention the deep hatred for Donald Trump and the way they treat the former president.”