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AG files brief to protect reproductive health

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is leading a coalition of more than a dozen states in filing a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a Massachusetts law that creates a 35-foot buffer zone around reproductive health clinics.

The zone can be crossed only by specified individuals, including those seeking to access the clinic and those passing by en route to a destination on the other side. The brief, filed in McCullen v. Coakley, argues that states should have the flexibility and discretion necessary to balance free speech rights with the right to access to health care and that the Massachusetts law is a reasonable restriction on the time, place and manner of speech.

Schneiderman’s brief, available at www.ag.ny.gov, is joined by 12 other states and the territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“States have a strong interest in ensuring that citizens have full and safe access to necessary health care,” Schneiderman said.

Massachusetts’ law was instituted after legislative findings that supporters and opponents of abortion rights were regularly gathering around facility entrances and driveways to engage in lawful protest activities and, in doing so, hampering the ability of patients and staff to access the facilities.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments Jan. 15.