In this qualitative study, women's perceptions and experiences of the quality of family planning services at public primary health centres were explored in the city of Tabriz, Iran. Nine focus group discussions were carried out with a total of 53 married women of reproductive age. The public services were appreciated for being accessible and affordable, but important shortcomings were identified. The need for improved privacy, a wider choice of contraceptive methods and accurate and more comprehensive information about methods and side effects were stressed. The issue of marital counselling was raised as an important unmet need, especially in one discussion group. The women's sense of having the right to make autonomous, informed choices and to be treated with dignity and respect emerged as the main theme. A second, cross-cutting theme was their wish for their husbands to be more strongly involved in family planning and marital counselling and education. Women's experiences and suggestions for improvements in service delivery should be considered in future plans. Multifaceted interventions are needed to narrow the existing gap between women's needs and rights and the actual quality of services.