But the Department of Justice at Stormont and Northern Ireland's attorney general challenged the judgment and won the appeal.
On Thursday human rights campaigners lost a Supreme Court appeal over the legality of Northern Ireland's abortion law.
Despite the decision, a majority of the seven-strong panel of justices in London expressed the "clear opinion" that the current legislation is "incompatible" with European human rights laws in the cases of fatal foetal abnormality, rape and incest.
"As such, the court does not have jurisdiction to make a declaration of incompatibility (with human rights law) in this case", the court said in a summary of the decision.
By a majority of 5 - 2 the court held that the current law is incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to respect for private and family life), in respect of women with pregnancies with a fatal foetal abnormality.
Leah Hoctor, regional director for Europe at the Center for Reproductive Rights in Geneva, which made a submission in the case, said the Supreme Court judgment was "an indictment" of Northern Ireland's restrictive law.
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During proceedings in October a year ago, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission told the court the current law criminalises "exceptionally vulnerable" women and girls and subjects them to "inhuman and degrading" treatment.
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Northern Ireland's elected assembly, which has powers to legislate on the issue, voted against liberalising the law in February 2016.
Northen Ireland's abortion laws violates human rights, according to UK Supreme Court.
Since last month's referendum in the Republic, Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom and Ireland where termination is restricted to cases where there is a threat to a woman's life or serious risk to her physical or mental health.
Rosa Curling, a solicitor with Leigh Day, representing a coalition of pro-choice organisations, said there were "no longer any excuses" to deny women in Northern Ireland the same rights granted to women elsewhere in the UK.
The British leader relies on allies in Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, a socially-conservative group whose opposition to abortion is largely responsible for the region's tough laws.
Anyone who unlawfully carries out an abortion could be jailed for life.
Britain's Northern Ireland minister has said she would like the law to be changed but that the matter should be decided by local politicians.