ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is still hoping to pass the whole of his 10-point Women’s Equality Act during the closing weeks of the 2013 legislative session, which ends in late June. But on Wednesday, the State Senate Republican leader suggested that his conference would not support any effort to bring a key part of the act — a state safeguard of federally recognized abortion rights — to a vote.
Senator Dean G. Skelos, the Long Island Republican who shares leadership of the Senate in a coalition with Senator Jeffrey D. Klein, a Bronx Democrat who leads the Independent Democratic Conference, told reporters that his members would not consider any abortion-related bill.
“Unnecessary,” Mr. Skelos said, in a single-word description of his opinion of the governor’s proposal. “And you know what? What people are talking about are jobs, taxes, spending. That’s what they are concerned about. And very few people at all ever believe that — whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice — the abortion laws in New York would ever be changed.”
But Mr. Cuomo has made it clear that he is concerned about abortion rights, and restated on Wednesday that he wanted to codify such rights, guaranteed by the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, in state law.
“I believe it should come up for a vote,” Mr. Cuomo said, adding that he knew all too well of Mr. Skelos’s opposition to the bill. “He’s been opposed to the choice vote for many, many, many years.”
Mr. Skelos’s comments seem to dim the chances for the abortion plank in Mr. Cuomo’s women’s agenda, which also includes less controversial elements like strengthening human-trafficking laws and support for victims of domestic violence, issues on which the governor and Mr. Skelos agree.
Under the coalition’s arrangement, it appears that the firm opposition of either Mr. Skelos or Mr. Klein can effectively prevent a bill coming to the floor, though the full nature of their power-sharing agreement is not entirely clear. Eric Soufer, a spokesman for Mr. Klein, said that the Independent Democratic Conference “wholeheartedly supports a woman’s right to choose,” but that “there aren’t enough votes in the other Democratic conference to pass a bill.”
“Until we clear that hurdle, or craft a bipartisan bill, it’s almost a moot point,” Mr. Soufer said.
But Mike Murphy, a spokesman for the Democratic Conference, disputed that, saying that “if choice was brought to the floor as promised,” meaning a measure to secure the provisions of Roe v. Wade, “it would pass with both Democratic and Republican votes.” Moreover, he said, “the women of New York deserve a vote.”
Mr. Skelos minimized the idea that abortion rights needed an extra dose of protection from the New York Legislature.
“You don’t need it,” he said, “because Roe v. Wade is never going to be changed.”