The landmark 1973 decision Roe v. Wade was overturned Friday by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 6-3 vote.

The decision was made over a month after a draft opinion on the topic was leaked in early May.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.”

Are Supreme Court decisions final?

The Supreme Court’s role is to interpret the meaning of the law and is seen as the “guardian and interpreter of the Constitution”.

However, a Supreme Court decision is not always set in stone.

Article V of the Constitution allows Congress to amend the constitution by a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress or if two-thirds of the states request one. The amendment must be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures. This has been used to override Supreme Court decisions in the past.

Constitutional amendments are not the only way for a Supreme Court decision to be overturned. An Act passed by both houses of Congress and either approved by the President or passed by Congress over a presidential veto, becomes law.

Dred Scott v. Sandford

This 1857 Supreme Court decision ruled in a 7-2 decision that enslaved people were not citizens of the United States and were not protected by the federal government or the courts. The opinion also said Congress had no authority to ban slavery from a federal territory.

This decision was overridden nearly a decade later by the ratification of the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, and the 14th Amendment, making anyone born in the United States a citizen of the U.S. and given equal protections.

Chisolm v. Georgia

The 1793 case Chisolm v. Georgia made a 4-1 decision that states could be sued in federal courts by citizens of another state. The decision meant that state conduct was subject to judicial review.

Associate Justice James Iredell was the lone dissenter, defending the rights of states to be independent sovereignties.

Iredell’s dissenting opinion became law with the 1795 ratification of the 11th Amendment, forbidding such lawsuits granted in Chisolm v. Georgia.

Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993

The 1990 decision in Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith ruled that generally applicable laws not targeting specific religious practices were not a violation of the free exercise clause of the 1st Amendment.

Following two members of the Native American Church who were denied unemployment for smoking peyote as part of a religious sacrament, Congress adopted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. Under this Act, courts are required to use strict scrutiny when examining laws relating to religious freedom.

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009

In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. that an employee loses their right to sue for pay discrimination if a claim is not made within 180 days of their employer’s pay decision.

Within two years the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was signed into law, stating each paycheck containing discriminatory compensation is a separate violation regardless of when the discrimination began.

ADA Amendments Act of 2008

This Act designed to “restore the intent and protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990” specifically named flaws in two Supreme Court decisions, Sutton v. United Air Lines in 1999 and Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. v. Williams in 2002.

Sutton v. United Air Lines ruled that two pilots denied employment from United Airlines due to not meeting vision standards could not claim discrimination under the ADA. The Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. v. Williams ruling said a Toyota Motor Manufacturing employee’s impairment did not qualify as a disability under the ADA because it did not substantially limit any major life activity.

Congress listed in the purposes section of the Act that the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 was to reject the requirements and reasoning of the those cases in order to restore the ADA.

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