Denver Mayoral Candidate Dr. Lisa Calderón has won the endorsement of the national reproductive rights advocacy organization #VOTEPROCHOICE, sparking criticism against incumbent Michael Hancock for his record on women’s issues, which has been questioned throughout his tenure as mayor.

“Based on her own experiences as a young woman of color and mother, and her work to protect and help survivors of sexual and domestic violence, Lisa’s experience and values represent their core values,” said the campaign in a press release.

Calderón, who’d be the first woman to serve as Denver’s mayor if elected, told the Colorado Times Recorder she’d “put the issues for women’s equity front and center in terms of city government leadership.”

“Not only would it be electing the first woman mayor, which is part of what I’m fighting for, but it would also be electing a mayor that is openly pro-choice, and unapologetically for the full spectrum of women’s reproductive health care,” Calderón added.

Hancock, on the other hand, has been “trying to have it both ways” and is “on the fence” when it comes to his stance on reproductive rights, Calderón said.

Calderón pointed to Hancock’s response on a Planned Parenthood candidate questionnaire from 2011, during his first run for mayor, on which he didn’t explicitly indicate he was pro-choice. Out of the options “Pro-Choice,” “Pro-Family Planning,” “Anti-Choice,” “Unsure,” and “Other,” Hancock indicated that he was “Pro-Family Planning.”

Mayor Hancock also downplayed the importance of reproductive rights during his 2011 campaign, telling a reporter that he didn’t think the issue was top of mind for Denver voters and implying that talking about it would be “overreach.”

After facing criticism from reproductive rights advocates, however, a campaign spokesman said, “Michael is pro-choice. He received a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood. Period.”

Calderón said Denver needs a Mayor who’s an unequivocal advocate for reproductive choice:

“We are getting mixed messages from the head of our city by saying, on the one hand, he supports a woman’s right to choose, but on the other hand, he doesn’t check the box for being pro-choice,” Said Calderon. “I would be unequivocal that for all women, and particularly those who have less access to reproductive health care, and health care in general, we need to make sure that there are protections in place, especially given the current political environment in Washington where reproductive rights are under attack.

As the Colorado Times Recorder reported last year, Hancock helped fundraise for an anti-abortion organization in Denver, further calling into question where his loyalties lie when it comes to the abortion debate.

Hancock donated tickets to see the musical Hamilton as an auction item for the 2018 “Beacon of Hope” fundraiser for Marisol Services, an anti-abortion pregnancy center operated by Catholic Charities of Denver.

During the previous year’s gala, Hancock praised the organization, saying, “what Catholic Charities is doing through the wonderful Marisol project — the city of Denver is humbled and proud to be your partner.”

As we reported last year, Marisol Services has a clear anti-choice agenda:

“Marisol Services, as stated on its webpage, provides ‘life-affirming medical care’ and ‘a full range of women’s health and family health services,’ a range which includes free ultrasounds, pregnancy testing, and counseling, but not abortion or contraceptives. In fact, a Catholic News Agency article, which was republished on Catholic Charities’ website, explains that Marisol’s mission is to ‘eliminate abortion from the definition of women’s healthcare.’

And, troublingly, Marisol offers an ‘abortion pill reversal’ process for women who change their minds about wanting to terminate their pregnancies after taking the first dose of the abortion pill, a process which hasn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and isn’t recommended by American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

ACOG has warned that in addition to being just as effective as doing nothing at all to reverse an abortion, this method poses a variety of health risks.”

Hancock didn’t respond to our request for comment last year on his involvement in the fundraiser, but asked about Calderón’s recent remarks, campaign spokesperson April Valdez Villa told the Colorado Times Recorder that Calderón’s characterization of the mayor’s stance on reproductive rights is false:

“Mayor Hancock is unwavering in his support for women’s health and reproductive justice. He is 100% pro-choice. This allegation that he is ‘on the fence’ about this issue is simply false. He has supported the Catholic Charities – who may have different ideas about this issue than Mayor Hancock – because he is supportive of the great work they do to help people experiencing homelessness, to provide housing assistance to vulnerable families and individuals, and to help protect immigrants.”

When pressed on how his clearly stated support for an anti-abortion organization aligns with his alleged pro-choice stance, Valdez Villa said,

“I cannot speak to how the Mayor’s remarks for the event in question were prepared or delivered. It is not out of the question for an event attendee to reference programs and projects as provided by event hosts. In any case, I am being very clear about Mayor Hancock’s stance on this issue. He is not an active supporter of Marisol Services or any other business of this type. Nor has he ever been.”

Calderón not only takes issue with Hancock’s support for Marisol, but believes donating tickets provided by the city and made possible by taxpayers for such an event to be an “inappropriate use of city funds.”

Addressing Calderón’s concern about Hancock’s use of free tickets, Valdez Villa said,

“I am unclear on why donating these sets of tickets to nonprofit organizations would be an inappropriate use of city funds. Tickets are provided to the city from venues where the city has some ownership. This practice has been vetted by the city’s ethics commission. Tickets are available for a number of reasons, and often offered to nonprofit and charitable organizations and members of the public – as they have been for decades by previous administrations.”

Denver’s board of ethics has approved the mayor’s donation of tickets to charity for fundraising purposes, and it appears that no restrictions are currently in place governing the types of charities to which the mayor can donate.

Calderón noted tha members of the ethics board are appointed by the mayor himself, in conjunction with city council. She’d aim for more transparency and accountability for how tickets are used if elected.

She said that Hancock’s record on reproductive choice, in addition to the sexual harassment scandal that has plagued his office, demonstrates that women are “not necessarily a priority in this city when it comes to policy making.”

“The mayor is critical in setting the city’s priorities,” said Calderón. “We know that we still don’t have equal pay for equal work, and so I would be ordering a scan of looking at where women have been left behind in opportunities in the city, where there are big pay disparities, and then also looking at what gets covered in terms of our benefits.”

Denver’s mayoral election takes place Tuesday, May 7.