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Mendonça: Portugal’s Progressive Laws May Offer an Oasis for Exhausted Americans

Joana Mendonça – Global Citizen Solutions

Portugal, with its progressive and solid legislation, has caught the eye of Americans who, especially after the recent reversal of the Roe v. Wade ruling on abortions, fear that US laws, and the human rights they represent, may be as solid as a puff of smoke. 

On June 24th, the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark ruling that gave women the constitutional right to access abortions, which had been in place since 1973. It left many US citizens wondering what comes next. Are rights to same-sex marriage and adoption at risk of being overturned as well?  

Americans have been flocking to Europe in the last few years due to domestic problems such as rising living costs, mass shootings, and the lack of affordable healthcare. And the recent insecurity about human rights laws adds to these anxieties, in many cases acting as the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. 

As a consultancy firm based in Portugal, we have noticed an increase in interest from Americans in Portugal’s migration programs since the June announcement. We have also seen indecisive clients fully committing to their decision to invest in a citizenship program in Portugal and safeguard their future.

In this article, I’d like to delve into why Portugal is a safe and stable choice for US citizens considering moving to another country. Portugal is not only one of the world’s safest countries in which to live and enjoy a high quality of life but is also a very progressive country when it comes to human rights. 

History has proven that setbacks in legislation, such as with the overturning of Roe v. Wade in America, are very unlikely to come about in Portugal. When progressive legislation has taken effect in the country, it is pretty much a given that the law is here to stay.

Why is that? The main reason is that both countries have fundamentally different legal systems. 

In the United States, courts can influence and change legislation, whereas in Portugal and in mainland Europe, once a law is approved, written down, and published, it stays that way and can only be altered or extinguished by following the same procedure. Courts and judges may interpret the law and apply it to specific cases, as long as such interpretations remain within the bounds of the constitution.

The only way to change legislation in mainland European countries is to go through the same process again, going back to parliamentary debates, voting, and approving. As a result, there is greater stability of rules and legal certainty.

A brief history on Portuguese human rights regulations

In 1761, Portugal took the first step toward abolishing slavery. Although it was not immediate, it was a process that never experienced setbacks. Portugal first abolished the death penalty in 1852, for political crimes, and in 1867, for crimes in general. Abolition of the death penalty came to be expressly enshrined in the 1976 Constitution.

The principle of equality enshrined in the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic determines that no one may be privileged, benefited, prejudiced, deprived of any right, or exempted from any duty on grounds of ancestry, sex, race, language, the territory of origin, religion, political convictions or ideology, education, economic status, social status, or sexual orientation. This principle was shielded by the constitutional text itself in a way that makes it almost impossible to change it without making an absolute transition from the Constitution itself and, consequently, from the very idea of the Democratic Rule of Law.

From 1984 onwards, Portugal started introducing abortion options, initially foreseen for exceptional cases and later progressing with an expansion of eligible cases in 1997 and, finally, in 2007, with the permitting of voluntary interruption of pregnancy until the 10th week.

In 2010, Portugal recognized the legality of same-sex relationships and their civil status through marriage and, in 2015, adoption by same-sex couples was approved.

Beyond these major landmarks, Portugal is paving the way in embracing progressive laws, which is appealing to Americans and others that are tired of restrictions in their home country. This includes discussions on neutral language, a topic that is gaining more and more traction in civil society and that should soon gain ground from an official point of view.

As of the end of 2021, Americans have begun reaching the monthly top five list of nationalities being granted a golden visa in Portugal. For thousands of Americans now residing in the country, making the decision to move to the country has been a choice that goes beyond simple lifestyle changes, lower prices, and improved quality of life. Portugal, affiliated with European cultural traditions and the humanist roots that have marked generations, has a progressive tendency, a culture of freedom and peace-making with permanent roots and no setbacks in human rights.  

Portugal is a country that walks at its own pace in recognizing freedoms, often being at the forefront of mindset growth and cultivating a culture of openness, equality, and non-discrimination. The stark contrast to the turbulent situation in the United States makes more and more citizens from the so-called Land of the Free realize that true freedom may come from being a Global Citizen and finding “terra firma” abroad.

To learn more about how you can gain residency rights and eventual citizenship in Portugal, contact Global Citizen Solutions today.

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