PHILADELPHIA (LifeSiteNews) — Attorneys representing pro-life Catholic sidewalk counselor Mark Houck presented crucial pieces of evidence to the jury Wednesday, including a massive revelation that the head of the local Planned Parenthood chapter herself believes the abortion “escort” at the center of the case had violated the company’s own policies, according to Thomas More Society senior counsel Michael McHale.
Attorneys also pointed out during Wednesday’s court proceedings that significant security footage is missing that would have shown one of the altercations between Houck and the abortion “escort.”
The updates come as the United States v. Houck trial, arguably one of the most critical criminal trials in the pro-life movement of this century, kicked off Tuesday and is slated to wrap up on Friday.
READ: Mark Houck heads to trial in one of the biggest pro-life cases of the century
The trial follows the dramatic FBI raid carried out on Houck’s home last year, after which the Biden administration’s DOJ charged Houck with two felonies for allegedly violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act when he pushed abortion clinic “escort” Bruce Love, 73, during sidewalk altercations on two separate occasions.
Houck’s attorneys say the local pro-life leader pushed Love to protect his young son Mark Jr., whom Love had been verbally harassing using vulgar language.
They also argue that the FACE Act doesn’t even apply in Houck’s case, because Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, chief sponsor of the legislation, clearly stated that “Demonstrators, clinic defenders, escorts, and other persons not involved in obtaining or providing services in the facility may not bring such a cause of action.”
Evidence presented in court on Wednesday suggests that the head of the local Planned Parenthood chapter herself believes that Mr. Love failed to follow proper protocols.
In a Wednesday video interview shared with LifeSiteNews, McHale said a “key part” of the days’ proceedings was showing the jury that Love had violated Planned Parenthood’s own escort manual when he engaged in an altercation with Houck that sparked the case.
McHale, who is supporting Thomas More Society vice president and head of litigation Peter Breen, said the team introduced into evidence the Planned Parenthood escort training handbook, which “specifically says that escorts are not to engage with or even antagonize the so-called protesters.”
“Mark Houck, our client in this case, is a peaceful sidewalk counselor, not a protester. But the jury was able to see that escorts have a specific obligation to not engage with pro-life people,” he continued, adding that Mr. Love “instigated and antagonized Mark Houck in violation of Planned Parenthood policy.”
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McHale said one of the witnesses to take the stand Wednesday was the Dayle Steinberg, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeast Pennsylvania. According to McHale, Steinberg had sent an email roughly a week after the altercation between Houck and Love in which she said that Love was persisting in disobeying Planned Parenthood’s escort policies that forbid interactions with pro-life protesters.
“So our Peter Breen was able to cross-examine her and bring out to the jury that even the CEO thought that Bruce Love was out of bounds on this day,” McHale said.
According to an update provided by Thomas More Society executive vice president and general counsel Andrew Bath, Steinberg “conceded the existence of a number of instructions in the Planned Parenthood escort training manual that the escort [Bruce Love] had violated.”
Breen also got Steinberg “to admit that it was she herself who instructed her security director to suspend [Love] for violating Planned Parenthood’s strict escort ‘non-engagement policy.’”
The then head-of security for the Planned Parenthood facility also took the stand Wednesday.
McHale said Thomas More co-counsel Brian McMonagle’s cross-examination of the security director showed that Mr. Love had “essentially lied” in an email sent shortly after the incident.
The abortion “escort’s” initial claim to have been “pushed from behind” by Houck, McHale said, conflicts with video footage that “shows clearly that Mr. Love is antagonizing and confronting Mark face to face when the incident occurs.”
In another twist, McHale said that crucial security footage is missing from the first altercation between Houck and Love, “even though it was in the same general area” as the second incident.
He said the former Planned Parenthood security director was “extremely evasive” about the missing footage during cross-examination, something “that was manifest to everyone in the courtroom.”
“Planned Parenthood did not retain key video that would show objectively what actually happened,” he said. “So the government’s case just became that much weaker today, we think.”
With Wednesday being the halfway point in the short trial, McHale said he believes the defense team “has gained momentum, significant momentum” poking holes in “the credibility of the government’s case by showing based on objective evidence that Mr. Love, the so-called escort, was not actually escorting but was actually violating Planned Parenthood policy by antagonizing Mark and his son.”
McHale said the defense team “feel[s] strong about our case” ahead of “a full day” planned for Thursday.
“[T]here’s a lot left to go and we want to make sure we stay focused and finish strong,” McHale said.
You can keep up with the updates on the Houck trial by following LifeSiteNews’ coverage as well as developments posted on the Thomas More Society’s website.
Most of all, readers are asked to pray for the legal team representing Houck, as well as for Houck himself, his wife, and their young children.