"She has to face all the dangers and problems, emotional or otherwise, of carrying a [fetus] for which she bears no moral responsibility and is merely a receptacle to carry the child of a rapist and/or a person who has committed incest, or both," Horner said. "In doing so, the law is enforcing the prohibition of abortion against an innocent victim of a crime in a way which completely ignores the personal circumstances of the victim."
He ruled that in cases of fetal fatal abnormalities, "there is no life to protect. When the [fetus] leaves the womb, it cannot survive independently. It is doomed."
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which brought the case, welcomed the decision. "Today’s result is historic, and will be welcomed by many of the vulnerable women and girls who have been faced with these situations," Chief Commissioner Les Allamby said in a statement.
Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin said he was "profoundly disappointed" by the decision and was considering grounds for an appeal, the BBC reported. He would have six weeks to file an appeal.
Northern Ireland's justice minister previously signaled support for legislation legalizing abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities but ruled out providing exceptions for rape victims.
In his ruling, Horner said that there is "no political will" to change the abortion law and that it's "impossible to know how the majority of people in Northern Ireland view abortion without a referendum."
Some Northern Ireland women seeking an abortion travel to Britain, where the procedure is more freely available because of the Abortion Act of 1967. In 2014, more than 800 women from Northern Ireland had abortions performed there, according to British Health Department.
In one particularly high-profile case in 2013, Sarah Ewart was 20 weeks pregnant when her baby was diagnosed with a condition in which the brain didn't develop. A doctor told her that she had to carry her pregnancy to term, as her life was not at risk. So she went to England for an abortion.
"My only choice basically was to carry the baby either until it passed away inside me or I could deliver and it would pass away," Ewart told BBC in 2013. "The law won't let you have an abortion unless the baby is going to harm you."