This case was brought by three women living in Ireland who became pregnant unintentionally and travelled to the United Kingdom in order to obtain abortion services due to the impossibility of obtaining a legal abortion in Ireland. Irish law permits abortion only where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the woman, and criminalizes providing or receiving an abortion under all other circumstances.

The first two applicants, A and B, had travelled to the UK for abortion services that they needed to preserve their health and well-being. They complained of the fact that the narrow exception to the abortion ban did not include abortion on health and well-being grounds. Applicant C. unintentionally became pregnant while in remission from cancer. Unaware that she was pregnant, she underwent tests for cancer that were contraindi­cated during pregnancy. Upon discovering that she was pregnant, she was unable to find a doctor willing to pro­vide sufficient information about the pregnancy’s impact on her life and health or the impact of the tests on the fetus, so she was forced to seek an abortion in the UK.

The applicants argued that the law, which forced them to travel abroad for abortion services, caused them to suffer physical and psychological anxiety and distress, amounting to a violation of their right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3) and freedom from discrimination on the basis of sex (Article 14) of the European Convention on Human Rights. In addition, individual applicants alleged that they were denied the rights to an effective domestic remedy to challenge the law (Article 13), freedom from discrimination as a low-income woman (Articles 14 and 8), and right to respect for private life (Article 8). Applicant C also claimed a violation of her right to life (Article 2).