If the Feds Go After a Pro-Lifer Who Shoved a Bully, They’ll Go After Anyone

On Sept. 23, Pennsylvania pro-life activist Mark Houck was arrested on federal criminal charges. The details of the alleged crime and the arrest itself remain disputed, but we know enough to make a couple of observations about our nation and the current political climate.

Houck was arrested in connection with an alleged assault on a volunteer at a Philadelphia abortion facility. Unsurprisingly, the accounts differ as to what occurred. The Department of Justice issued a press release stating that Houck twice assaulted the alleged victim because he was a volunteer at an abortion facility. . .

Already we have a federalism problem here. Perhaps we have become too quick to accept the existence of an elaborate regime of federal criminal law. But as we know from the Tenth Amendment, the federal government has only the limited powers enumerated in the Constitution, with any remaining powers being reserved to the states or the people. From this comes the accepted principle in our federalist republic that states have the general police power. Federal criminal statutes and prosecutions must be limited to cases where the Constitution grants enumerated powers, such as interstate activity or crimes involving foreign agents and national security.

In this case, what we have is a very uneventful assault, where one man pushed another man. Hardly the stuff of a federal crime. An assault is a run-of-the-mill crime, and it is up to states to criminalize and prosecute such routine offenses. It is only when the assault occurs in a discriminatory way — in this case, because the alleged victim works at an abortion facility — that the feds claim jurisdiction. It remains questionable whether access to abortion facilities and assaults that occur on these properties should be within the jurisdiction of federal criminal authorities at all, but that goes beyond the scope of this essay.

A recent article on the incident explains that the Justice Department relies on the section of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act that “prohibits violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain or provide reproductive health services.” (Read more from “If the Feds Go After a Pro-Lifer Who Shoved a Bully, They’ll Go After Anyone” HERE)

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