The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has called for safe access zones to be legislated for without further delay.

In July, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly secured Cabinet approval to legislate for the designation of zones, to safeguard access to termination of pregnancy services around healthcare premises.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has called for movement on that legislation because it has said that anti-abortion activity can act as "a real barrier for women in accessing abortion services, especially given the fact that only one in ten GPs in Ireland provide abortion care".

In a submission on the General Scheme of the Safe Access Zones Bill, it said that witnessing this activity could cause mental and physical harm for service users and lead to delayed appointments and deferred treatments, as well as increasing judgement and stigma.

The human rights institution has recommended a response that engages criminal law.

The alternative of civil remedies, like an injunction, are not effective to address widespread and repeated protests, it has said.

The submission to the Oireachtas has recommended a 100m radius so that there is no unintended constitutional interference with freedom of assembly.

It has also suggested that an obligation be placed on gardaí to collect data disaggregated on equality grounds; and that this data be anonymised and published to facilitate "public scrutiny and research".

It has suggested that an obligation be placed on An Garda Síochána to keep a record of how their powers under the legislation are being enforced and to publish annual reports on this activity.

The commission also believes a review of the legislation should be included in the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act to monitor the effectiveness of the law.

The Pro Life Campaign has expressed concern about the proposals by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

In a statement issued this evening, it said that introducing prison time for pro-life citizens as part of the proposed legislation was "an excessively authoritarian suggestion".

It described the proposal as "inherently discriminatory", because "it singles out a particular ideological and moral worldview for punishment".

It added that legislation setting up exclusion zones around abortion facilities to combat 'intimidation' and 'harassment' was not required, as these were already offences under public order laws.

"Nonetheless, the excessive measures which would have the impact of banning the optional provision of pro-life literature and even quiet and reflective prayer are being railroaded through the Oireachtas," it stated.

The campaign has also said that the "alleged existential problem of these protests" is not happening.

Its spokesperson Eilís Mulroy accused the IHREC of "actively contradicting and undermining its mission statement of defending and advancing the cause of human rights by its conduct in this matter".