"Expansion of late-term abortion is extreme, in my opinion. It's not progressive, it's extreme," Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos said Tuesday.
Cuomo had said in his January State of the State speech that he supported a Democratic proposal to legalize later-term abortions. But as Republican opposition to the proposal built in the days after Cuomo's speech, his aides began to insist he only sought to protect current abortion rights granted under Roe v. Wade.
In a radio interview Tuesday, Cuomo said he wants to ensure those rights continue in New York if Roe v. Wade were reversed. He accused legislators of trying to avoid a vote on the politically difficult topic.
Skelos dismissed Cuomo's view.
"Those laws are not going to be changed in New York state," Skelos said. "What people are interested in right now? Jobs, taxes, affordability."
Skelos said he wouldn't bring a bill to the floor even if it only maintains current standards. "There's no need, absolutely no need."
But most Senate Democrats, powerful Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and women's rights advocates have made the issue a priority.
"It's about protecting lives," said Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women in New York City, who added that Skelos characterizing the bill as "extreme" was misleading.
While Skelos can stop the measure, some uncertainties remain. Senate Republicans share majority rule with the four-member Independent Democratic Conference, which wants to see the measure passed. Under Senate rules, Skelos would have to agree to allow a bill to the floor with the Democratic group.
IDC spokesman Eric Soufer said the group will now reach out to other Democrats to find enough votes to pass an abortion bill, hoping that could force Republicans to give the measure a floor vote. But there are deep rifts between the independent Democrats and the rest of the party's lawmakers, and agreement isn't certain.
"Leaders don't bring important bills to the floor to fail," Soufer said. "When you do and they fail, it's a major setback. We don't want to see that happen to this issue."
Just offstage but playing an important role is the state Conservative Party, which successfully punished a handful of Republican senators who voted to legalize gay marriage in 2011 by running candidates against them in elections.
As for Skelos' announcement, state Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long said, "I'm very happy that's the position he's taking. I'm glad the senator is digging in and sticking to that position."