With attacks on pro-life organizations around the country on the rise, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee have charged that the Department of Justice is unequally enforcing the law to the detriment of such groups.
“Politics is driving the agenda in far too many agencies in our government, and today, it’s not limited to presidential campaigns,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) at a May 16 committee hearing. “Today, they come after American citizens.
“You could be a Catholic attending a Mass. You could be a parent showing up at a school board meeting. Or, you could be like Mr. Houck, a pro-lifer praying at a clinic, and you … could be targeted by our government. That is how scary the situation has become.”
Mark Houck, a Catholic pro-life advocate, was one of several witnesses invited to testify before the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government regarding the Justice Department’s enforcement of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, a law that prohibits the use or threat of force to intimidate or obstruct those seeking to obtain or provide “reproductive health services.”
In October 2021, Houck was involved in an altercation with a clinic escort at a Philadelphia Planned Parenthood clinic. But while local law enforcement declined to pursue charges in the case, in September 2022, the FBI arrested Houck in front of his wife and children during an early morning raid on his home.
“My children were down-range of many guns, and they screamed through the whole process. … They were traumatized,” he recounted at Tuesday’s hearing.
Jordan, noting that Houck had volunteered to turn himself in to police, asked the father of seven why he thought he had received such treatment from the FBI.
“I’ve been thinking about that for many months, and I can only come up with that the intention was to humiliate me, to scare my children, and to instill fear in pro-life America,” Houck replied.
Despite the Justice Department’s zealous enforcement of the FACE Act in Houck’s case, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), the subcommittee chairman, noted that the Biden administration has rarely enforced the law in defense of pro-life pregnancy centers and churches, which are also protected under the statute.
“The Justice Department to date has brought only four indictments against pro-abortion activists, all of which were related to a single Jane’s Revenge attack in Florida,” Johnson said, referencing a pro-abortion extremist group.
Those four indictments, he contended, were “not even a drop in the bucket” considering the hundreds of attacks on pro-life organizations and churches that have occurred since the FACE Act was passed in 1994.
Over the past year, such attacks have ramped up considerably in light of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling that abortion is not a constitutionally protected right.
According to the Family Research Council, between the leak of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in May 2022 and March 2023, more than 100 attacks on pro-life organizations and churches occurred.
New Life Family Services, an organization in Minnesota that oversees First Care Pregnancy Centers, is just one pro-life organization to have recently experienced such an attack.
On March 4, a First Care in Minneapolis was vandalized by Jane’s Revenge, which smashed windows and spray-painted graffiti on the outside of the facility, including such phrases as “Jane was here” and “If abortions arn’t [sic] safe neither r u.”
The vandals caused more than $30,000 worth of damage in just two minutes, according to New Life Family Services Executive Director Tammy Kocher, who also advised that the culprits had yet to be held to account.
“We have been in touch with the FBI, but there have been no arrests. Nobody has been identified, to my knowledge.”
Further noting that other pregnancy centers in her state had faced similar threats and attacks, Kocher added: “While these attacks are meant to intimidate and hurt us, the people who are ultimately hurt are our clients—single moms, families who are struggling to make ends meet, and young women who are being pressured into an abortion. They are the real victims here.”
While Republicans argued that the Justice Department had been selectively applying the law, the Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat asserted that his GOP colleagues had been selective in their condemnation of politically motivated violence.
“Since 1977, anti-abortion extremists have been responsible for 11 murders, 42 bombings, 200 arsons, 531 assaults, and thousands of incidents of criminal activities directed at patients, providers, and volunteers,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said, noting that the FACE Act was passed in response to such violence.
Condemning “all acts of violence,” Nadler charged that the Republican committee members were ignoring attacks against abortion providers and patients to focus on a “false narrative of malevolent law enforcement.”
The Democrat added, “Today’s hearing will inadvertently send the wrong message to anti-abortion extremists at a critical moment in our nation where reproductive freedom and abortion access is in crisis.”