More Americans support a national right to abortion than a national ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy

Taylor OrthSenior Survey Data Journalist
September 21, 2022, 10:36 PM GMT+0

Last week, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham introduced legislation that would institute a federal ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. The law would leave in place stricter restrictions enacted by individual states, but supersede state laws that allow abortion after 15 weeks besides these rare exceptions. 

The latest Economist/YouGov poll asked Americans their opinions on this proposal, as well as on three other potential national laws on abortion. Of these policy options, Americans are most likely to support establishing a national right to abortion (50% support, 37% oppose) and least likely to support a national ban on abortion (29%, 60%). Just 39% of Americans support a 15-week proposal such as Graham's that leaves room for states to enact stricter bans, while 46% oppose it. Americans overall are no more likely to support a ban on abortions after 15 weeks if it were paired with a measure that legalized abortions prior to 15 weeks nationally (39% support, 47% oppose).

Most people who support a national abortion ban (76%) also support Graham's proposal to ban abortions after 15 weeks; only 25% of people who support establishing a national right to abortion support Graham's plan. A ban after 15 weeks that also legalizes abortion nationally prior to 15 weeks receives more cross-cutting support: Around half of people who are in favor of a national ban support it (53%), as do 41% of people who favor a national right to abortion.

Recently, the Department of Veterans Affairs indicated that it will provide abortions in certain circumstances, even in states where doing so is illegal or restricted. By 46% to 33%, Americans support the federal government allowing abortions to be performed on federal lands inside states that ban abortion. Democrats (70%) are more likely than Republicans (26%) or Independents (39%) to support this proposal.

– Carl Bialik and Linley Sanders contributed to this article

This poll was conducted on September 17 - 20, 2022 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this Economist/YouGov poll.

Image: Getty