"State law needs to be updated so that it is consistent with federal standards and once and for all makes a woman's right to choose unassailable in New York state," said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi. "This is not an expansion of abortion rights. It's a codification of existing federal law. Any suggestion to the contrary is not only baseless, but a distortion of the facts."
Skelos made his first extensive comments on Cuomo's proposal a day after the state Conservative Party issued some stern direction to Republican senators. Most need Conservative support in the state dominated by Democratic voters. A Conservative Party backlash last fall against three Republicans who voted to legalize gay marriage in 2011 cost Republicans sole control of the Senate this year.
Advocates may have to depend entirely on Democrats, who are divided in the Senate. The five-member Independent Democratic conference shares majority control in a coalition with Republicans. Another 27 are in the traditional Democratic conference, but at least two of them have voted against expanding abortion rights in the past. Another Democrat sits and vote with the Republicans.
That leaves no easy route for approval of Cuomo's abortion proposal.
"The coalition government is not to turn Republicans into Democrats," said Sen. Jeffrey Klein who leads the Independent Democratic Conference. "This is a tough issue and I believe it's become a very core Democratic issue ... we really need to figure out a way to get this done."
The Senate coalition's power sharing agreement requires Klein and Skelos to agree to send a bill to the floor for a vote, with either leader holding a veto. But Klein said that if 32 Democrats agree to vote for the measure, he will get it to the floor.
"This should not be a partisan issue, but about protecting the equality and health of women," said Mike Murphy, spokesman for the traditional Democratic conference. "We will stand behind the governor's Women's Equality Act that includes legislation that would increase pay equity, stop discrimination as well as protect women's reproductive rights."