Metro

Mass. buffer-zone law at highest court

Nearly a dozen briefs have been filed with the US Supreme Court in support of a Massachusetts law that bars protests within 35 feet of abortion clinic entrances, exits, and driveways.

Critics of the state’s so-called ‘‘buffer zone’’ law say it is an infringement on their First Amendment rights.

They hope to get the law ruled unconstitutional.

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Attorney General Martha Coakley and other supporters of the law say that it is needed to protect the safety of clinic workers and patients.

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They argue that the zones do not deny protesters their free- speech rights.

Groups that have filed briefs with the nation’s highest court in support of the 2007 law include the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Abortion Federation, and the National League of Cities.

Coakley said several states and municipalities also have filed briefs, including San Francisco and the state of New York.

She said Monday that she was ‘‘pleased to receive the support of such a broad range of groups and perspectives in our defense of the buffer-zone law.’’

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The law was upheld in January by the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. In June, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

In 2000, the Supreme Court upheld a Colorado buffer-zone law. But Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito have since replaced members of that majority and are considered more sympathetic to the free-speech claims.

The court is scheduled to hear the case on Jan. 15.