By Steven Ertelt
Pro-Life Americans are up in arms about the FBI targeting peaceful pro-life advocates, raiding their home and arresting them.
The Biden administration has been under heavy criticism as Joe Biden’s Justice Department targets peaceful pro-life Americans for protesting abortions in such as a way that they blocked access to an abortion center.
The Justice Department has charged 11 more pro-life activists with violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act for blocking the entrance of an abortion clinic in 2021. The 11 activists were charged with FACE Act violations stemming from their 2021 “blockade” of an abortion clinic in Mount Juliet, Tennessee.
Why are pro-life Americans being targeted like never before for peacefully protesting abortion?
That’s because Biden’s Justice Department quietly created a task force in July to target pro-life Americans. As the Washington Examiner reports:
The DOJ’s Reproductive Rights Task Force was announced on July 12 with the stated goal of “protect[ing] access to reproductive health care,” which means abortion.
Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, a former ACLU lawyer, heads the task force, which, according to the DOJ, includes representatives of the “Department’s Civil Division, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney community, Office of the Solicitor General,” and other offices at the DOJ. Justice also assigned dedicated staff to this task force.
Along with lobbying Congress to create a federal right to abortion, the task force’s work included centralizing “information about the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act,” the federal law used to prosecute at least a dozen pro-life activists in recent weeks.
Where was this flurry of activity coming from? A good guess is the DOJ’s Reproductive Rights Task Force. The FBI refused to answer whether the DOJ’s Reproductive Rights Task Force had anything to do with the arrests, deflecting the question to the DOJ. The DOJ didn’t respond to a press request made Wednesday.
Oddly, the DOJ’s creation of this task force garnered almost no media attention, despite a press release from the department, forwarded by the White House that evening. This announcement came the same day President Joe Biden gave a speech on gun violence and also released images from the TK telescope got near-zero press coverage. (I couldn’t find mention of its creation in July in the New York Times, the Washington Post, or the Associated Press.)
After just two months preparing, the task force resulted in arresting Mark Houck in September and another 11 pro-life advocates last week.
New information about one of the pro-life advocates arrested recently shows she is an 87-year-old woman who is a concentration camp survivor.
A federal indictment alleges that the pro-life defendants “engaged in a conspiracy to prevent the clinic from providing” and patients from receiving abortion services and violated the FACE Act by “using physical obstruction to intimidate and interfere with the clinic’s employees and a patient.”
Yet the event was mostly pro-life people staging a peaceful sit in along with signing and praying and it was so lawful and peaceful that local police let them go after minor misdemeanor charges. But if convicted on these federal charges from the Biden administration, Vaughn faces up to 11 years in prison, three years supervised release and fines of up to $350,000.
One of the pro-life advocates the FBI considers as a danger to the public is an elderly woman, Eva Edl, who is a German survivor of a communist prisoner-of-war concentration camp during World War II. After she escaped that horror, Edl dedicated her life to fighting for human rights for everyone — including people before birth
“The first time I realized there were abortion clinics in our country was in 1988,” she said, according to a previous Live Action News report. “I said to my husband, ‘these are the death camps of America.’ I saw people sitting in front of abortion clinics in Atlanta, and I’ve been involved ever since.”
If you were in a death camp like I was as a girl, would you want those who were obligated to love you to lobby for cleaner death camps? Less bugs in our starvation diet? Please! It disgusts the Lord that we waste so much time on money that will not protect one single child, even if the legislation is upheld by the court.
[…] If we have to defy the judiciary for even the most toothless attempts to regulate abortion (mandating sanitary killing centers, for example), why not defy the judiciary to protect every child, as our leaders take an oath to do! Why settle for less than the very minimum that God settles for? According to the Bible (Numbers 35, Genesis 9), only justice abates the wrath of God for the shedding of innocent blood. I believe every jurisdiction – city, county, state, federal, international – should immediately criminalize every abortion and protect every baby, and WOE unto us if we don’t.
The wrath of God is against us, and time is short to waste effort trying to regulate the child-killing. We wind up on the wrong side of the line God’s drawn so clearly in the sand.
Another of the pro-life advocates arrested under the FACE indictments was a pro-life father, Paul Vaughn, who didn’t even participate in the rescue but whose home was raided anyway.
Now, horrific new details have come to light about the terribly way Vaughn was treated — all apparently without legal counsel present. As TownHall reports:
Vaughn shared his family’s account of the FBI raid with Townhall, providing harrowing details of his arrest just before the father was about to take his children to school. According to a statement provided to Townhall, Vaughn was handcuffed on the porch in front of his kids after FBI agents raided the Vaughn family property while carrying assault rifles and side arms. Three of Vaughn’s children were outside walking through the backyard when an FBI agent armed with an AR-15 confronted the kids and questioned them. Several kids were asleep upstairs, and one child ran to her mother frantically crying, “The FBI is here, and they are arresting Daddy.” Vaughn’s wife remarked, “They traumatized me and my children intentionally. We will never forget this.”
His wife, shaking and fighting back tears, said she demanded to know what was happening. Still, the FBI agents refused to answer why they were there, did not identify themselves, did not show badges, provided no warrant proof, and did not say where they were taking her husband. Vaughn was placed in an SUV wearing his undershirt and jeans with no identification or means of communication when he got whisked away within a 10-minute timeframe. Their children were left “shaken, frightened, and very upset,” Vaughn said.
According to Vaughn, the family did not receive any official information about the cause of the raid or Vaughn’s whereabouts until six hours after the arrest. He said he was held in a federal holding facility, brought before a judge, charged, and then released without a wallet or a cell phone 60 miles from his Hickman County home.
“For over six hours, no one knew where I was and why I was kidnapped from my home at gunpoint. It took a good attorney six hours to be able to break through the bureaucracy and find the people who know what was going on,” Vaughn told Townhall. In the meantime, his searching wife had to console their crying children.
Vaughn pled not guilty to the charges and is searching for the right legal team to fight the legal battle “to the fullest.” In a statement to Townhall, Vaughn called the FBI “paid thugs of an out-of-control Justice Department” that “must be reined in immediately.” Vaughn said he would have turned himself in or showed up when summoned to appear. “There were no legitimate reasons for their abusive and excessive show of force,” he said.
What’s worse is Vaughn didn’t participate in the March 2021 sit-in. He acted as a mediator between the pro-life people who participated and law enforcement to ensure the protest was safe and peaceful.
A pro-life attorney who is helping the case says the FBI raid was done without provocation and he received no information about it.
“There was no effort to bring him in voluntarily,” Gualberto Garcia Jones, an attorney for the Personhood Alliance, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “They showed up unannounced at around 7 a.m. They were banging on the door so loud that it made the whole house shake and once they did that he came out — he was actually on his way to take seven of his children to school. The FBI agents, all four of them had their weapons drawn: two of them had long guns, two of them had sidearms. They were very, very aggressive, but once his wife took out the phone, they immediately changed their demeanor.”
In response, Republicans Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mike Johnson of Louisiana are launching a congressional inquiry into the Justice Department’s political enforcement of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.
A message on a GiveSendGo fundraising campaign provides more details about what happened:
My pro-life friend, Paul Vaughn, was arrested yesterday by the FBI in an early morning raid in front of his family. Paul is the President of Personhood Tennessee, a group that advocates for a biblical view of the inalienable dignity of the human person.
Paul is a peace loving Christian family man.
At around 7 am, four heavily armed FBI agents approached Paul’s home with guns drawn and began banging on his door so hard that it made his old farmhouse shake. A father of 11, Paul’s alleged crime is that he had been present at a peaceful pro-life “rescue” that took place over a year ago in March of 2021 in Mount Juliet, Tennessee.
Paul was never arrested by the local police because he was working to mediate between the pro-life rescuers and the police to ensure everyone’s safety. No one was hurt and no property was damaged as a result of the pro-life “rescue.”
The event of March 2021 involved several pro-life activists sitting in a hallway outside of an abortion clinic in Tennessee singing hymns, reading scripture, and praying. No one was hurt and no property was damaged. For this, the FBI is charging the protesters with violations of the FACE Act which carry sentences of more than 10 years in prison and $250,000. Paul is also being charged with conspiracy to violate the FACE Act just because he was there.
Paul’s arrest by the FBI with guns drawn and in front of his children coincided with Joe Biden’s press conference marking 100 days since the US Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs v. Jackson case. At that press conference, President Biden announce tens of millions in grants to pro-abortion groups and issued guidelines to weaponize the department of Education against state universities in pro-life states.
Yesterday’s arrest of Paul Vaughn appears to be timed to coincide with the President’s press conference as he met with the “Reproductive Rights Taskforce”. It shows that President Biden is using the taxpayer to fund his pro-abortion political allies while using the Justice Department and the FBI to persecute and harass his political opponents.
Several of the activists were arrested on the day of the blockade, after reportedly successfully preventing abortions from taking place at the clinic for most of the day, but police reportedly released these activists later in the day after they posted bail for misdemeanor charges.
In a Wednesday press release, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee announced that Chester Gallagher, 73, of Lebanon, Tennessee; Heather Idoni, 58, of Michigan; Calvin Zastrow, 57, of Michigan; Caroline Davis, 24, of Michigan; Coleman Boyd, 51, of Bolton, Mississippi; Dennis Green, 56, of Cumberland, Virginia; and Paul Vaughn, 55, of Centerville, Tennessee, are charged with “conspiracy against rights secured by the FACE Act, and committing FACE Act violations.”
This is the second time in recent weeks that the FBI has raided the home of a pro-life families — with the first case involving pro-life advocate Mark Houck, whose family was raided after an altercation at a Philadelphia abortion business last year where he accidentally pushed down a man who was verbally accosting his 12-year-old son.
According to a Live Action report, the event Gallagher and other pro-life advocates participated in was peaceful — so much so that they were released by local police on minor trespassing charges.
The event in March 2021 was reportedly peaceful, with participants lining the inside hallway of a shared general medical office building which, in one area, houses the Carafem abortion facility. The rescuers who were gathered that day prayed and sang, and the event was nonviolent. Some recorded the events on video. Several participants were arrested by local police that day and were later released after posting bail for misdemeanor trespass charges. (Read more here and here.)
Hurley said other individuals were “called by the FBI telling them they had arrest warrants and had to turn themselves in.” Those individuals were named by Hurley as Paul Place, Renee Davis, Dr. Coleman Boyd, Dennis Green, and Heather Idoni. One other individual is also believed to have been charged, but for now remains unidentified.
With regard to Houck, there are concerns that Attorney General Merrick Garland is doing the investigations and ordering the FBI to raid pro-life advocates — weaponizing the agency so he can make political decisions to go after pro-life Americans.
Live Action’s report indicates that could be the case here.
“The FBI isn’t even performing the investigations,” said Hurley. “The DOJ is doing their own investigations and using the FBI as their arm of that organization… Normally the FBI does an investigation, and if they find someone guilty of federal crimes, they issue warrants.” Instead, he says, “the DOJ is… sending local branches of the FBI with arrest warrants to be their strong arm.”
Hurley notes that pro-life activists have recently been charged with FACE as well as conspiracy (to rob someone of a constitutional right), which could result in up to 10 years in prison. “This is a new tactic the DOJ has been thawing at pro-lifers to see if the charges stick,” he says.
With the help of pro-life attorneys during an appearance in federal court, Houck pleaded not guilty in Pennsylvania federal court to violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.
Houck’s attorney, Peter Breen, said that the case already made its way through the state court process and was thrown out, but the Biden Department of Justice took up the matter nearly a year later as a form of “political prosecution.”
“If he was truly a danger to the community, they wouldn’t have waited a year to prosecute,” Breen, VP senior counsel of the Thomas Moore Society, said outside the courthouse. “Serious questions need to be asked of the Attorney General. What was he thinking? Why did they do this obscene show of force against a peaceful pillar of the community?”
“It put officers’ lives in danger. It put the Houck family in danger. And it was an utter waste of judicial resources and taxpayer resources,” Breen said.
Breen said his team contacted the DOJ and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in June to inform them they had no case based on controlling precedent but if they decided to indict, defense would present Houck willingly in response to a summons. Breen said the next notice he received was that his client was in custody.
“This is a political prosecution,” Breen said. “And what’s clear from the Department of Justice at its highest levels which is directing this case that they are trying to send a message to pro-life and people of faith – ‘don’t mess with us.’ They want to intimidate — they want to cause good people like Mark to stop praying and counseling at the abortion clinics of our country. And that’s not going to happen.”
The U.S. government alleges that Houck assaulted and “forcefully shoved” Bruce Love, a 72-year-old volunteer at a Philadelphia Planned Parenthood.
Breen, however, categorized the abortion escort as “extremely aggressive,” saying Love was “harassing” Houck’s 12-year-old son before an “altercation ensued.”
“What in the world would possess the Department of Justice to send 20 or so heavily armed agents to this family’s home, violate the sanctity of that home, frighten the children and then drag their father away instead of allowing us to present him peacefully – which we had offered to do?” Breen said on Tuesday.
Fortunately, pro-life Americans have stepped up and are helping the Houck family in this battle:
More than 4,000 donations have been offered to Houck and his family, totaling $251,810 by Tuesday afternoon.
Pennsylvania pro-life activist Ashley Garecht and her husband Joe Garecht created the crowdfunding page. Notably, the couple’s daughters in 2019, then just 13 and 15 years old, were harassed by then-state Rep. Brian Sims (D) for several minutes as they prayed for unborn children outside a Pennsylvania abortion clinic.
Garecht told The Daily Wire over the weekend that Houck was protecting his son from an aggressive Planned Parenthood escort harassing the boy. She said the case was dismissed by a federal court in Philadelphia when the escort tried to press charges, but Biden’s DOJ picked it up anyway.
“Last year, Mark and his son were praying in front of the [Planned Parenthood] at 12th and Locust,” the GiveSendGo account says. “When one of the escorts began harassing Mark’s son they walked down the street away from the entrance to the building. The escort followed them, and when he continued yelling at Mark’s son, Mark pushed him away.”
The Garechts say the funds raised through the campaign “will go to help the family with any necessary expenses.”
“Your generosity is greatly appreciated,” the couple adds. “Let’s show the Houck family they are not alone, while we show Planned Parenthood and its militant pro-abortion allies that the pro-life community will not be silenced by fear and intimidation.”
Houck, a father of seven, is frequently seen sidewalk counseling in front of Philadelphia abortion businesses to help women choose pro-life alternatives.
In October 2021, Houck was involved in an incident outside a Philadelphia abortion business where a pro-abortion clinic escort had repeatedly bullied and intimidated his 12-year-old son who was with him to help sidewalk counsel and encourage women to choose pro-life alternatives. After multiple verbal assaults and the abortion activist getting into his son’s face, Houck pushed him away and he fell.
Houck, who regularly prays the rosary outside the clinic, maintains he was defending his 12-year-old son from the escort’s verbal harassment, a family spokesman, Brian Middleton, told CNA. The man fell when Houck pushed him away, Middleton said. The incident was so minor that charges were never pressed and a court ultimately dismissed a complaint the abortion activist filed.
Houck agreed months ago to turn himself in voluntarily.
In June 2022, Thomas More Society attorneys notified the Biden Department of Justice that the FACE Act does not cover one-on-one altercations like the one involving Houck, which was initiated by the abortion proponent who was harassing Houck’s son. The Department of Justice was also advised that if the decision was made to bring a charge against Houck despite lack of legal foundation, Houck would appear voluntarily.
“Rather than accepting Mark Houck’s offer to appear voluntarily, the Biden Department of Justice chose to make an unnecessary show of potentially deadly force, sending twenty heavily armed federal agents to the Houck residence at dawn this past Friday,” explained Breen. “In threatening form, after nearly breaking down the family’s front door, at least five agents pointed guns at Mark’s head and arrested him in front of his wife and seven young children, who were terrified that their husband and father would be shot dead before their eyes.”
“This case is being brought solely to intimidate people of faith and pro-life Americans,” stated Breen. “Mark Houck is innocent of these lawless charges, and we intend to prove that in court.”
The case has drawn condemnation from pro-life members of Congress like Senator Josh Hawley and Congressman Chip Roy.
If the DOJ pursue the charges, it will be going agaisnt court precedent. In June 2019, Thomas More Society attorneys won a case in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, establishing that a one-off altercation, like the one in which the Biden Department of Justice is levying two counts against Houck, cannot form the basis for a FACE claim.
As CNA reports, the incident at the abortion center was so minor that local charges were never filed.
When both the city police and the district attorney declined to file charges against Houck, the escort filed a private criminal complaint in Philadelphia municipal court, Middleton said. The case was dismissed in July when the man repeatedly didn’t show up in court, Middleton said.
Just days later, Houck received a “target letter” from the U.S. Attorney’s Office informing him that he was the focus of a federal criminal probe into the same incident, Middleton said.
Through his attorney at the time, Houck tried to contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office to discuss the case but never received a response, Middleton said.
“The next time they heard anything was Friday morning,” he said.
Biden’s Justice Department is now charging Houck with violating the FACE Act and Houck is now facing a maximum sentence of 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and fines of up to $350,000 for merely defending his son from being attacked.
However, Houck never blocked access to the abortion center, which is what the law is designed to stop, and the incident was nothing more than a minor scuffle.
The Houck family is now panicked about what will happen to Mark from here. A GiveSendGo has been set up to help raise funds to support them and to assist with Mark’s legal defense.
Mark Houck was taken to “the federal building in downtown Philadelphia,” his wife told the outlet.
As a result of the incident, the children were “really sad and stressed,” Ryan-Marie said. “I don’t really know what’s going to come of it when you see guns pointed at your dad and your mom in your house when you first wake up in the morning.”