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In Historic Move, Court Rules Inmate Must Receive Confirmation Surgery

Adree Edmo via Black and White

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) must provide medically necessary gender confirmation surgery for a transgender inmate. 

A three-judge panel on the Court of Appeals has ordered IDOC to provide Adree Edmo, a transgender woman, life-saving treatment for severe gender dysphoria, agreeing with Federal District Judge B. Lynn Windmill’s ruling in Edmo’s favor. The panel argued that not providing the surgery would be a violation of the Eighth Amendment. 

Edmo is serving a 3-10 year sentence for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy when she was 22. 

The ruling means that Edmo will be the first transgender inmante in the nation to receive the surgery through a court order. 

“We hold that where, as here, the record shows that the medically necessary treatment for a prisoner’s gender dysphoria is gender confirmation surgery, and responsible prison officials deny such treatment with full awareness of the prisoner’s suffering, those officials violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment,” the decision says.

The three-judge panel that issued the ruling consists of U.S. Circuit Judge Mary Margaret McKeown, U.S. Circuit Judge Ronald Gould, and U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik, who are all Clinton appointees. 

An online petition opposing Edmo’s case has reached nearly 5,000 signatures. Idaho Gov. Brad Little appealed the case as one of his first official acts when he took office. "The hard working taxpayers of Idaho should not be forced to pay for a prisoner's gender reassignment surgery when individual insurance plans won't even cover it," Little said. "We cannot divert critical public dollars away from our focus on keeping the public safe and rehabilitating offenders."

Little issued a statement on Friday following the Court of Appeals decision. “The court’s decision is extremely disappointing,” he wrote. “The hardworking taxpayers of Idaho should not be forced to pay for a convicted sex offender’s gender reassignment surgery when it is contrary to the medical opinions of the treating physician and multiple mental health professionals. I intend to appeal this decision to the U.S Supreme Court. We cannot divert critical public dollars away from the higher priorities of keeping the public safe and rehabilitating offenders.”

In a statement Edmo said that she is “relieved and grateful” the court recognized her right to necessary medical treatment. “I hope my case helps the State of Idaho understand that they can’t deny medical care to transgender people.”

Edmo originally filed a lawsuit in 2017 after the prison refused to provide her with surgery. Her gender dysphoria was so severe she attempted self-castration twice while incarcerated. 

“Today’s ruling affirms that state officials cannot pick and choose which serious medical conditions they will treat. Intentionally depriving someone of medically necessary care amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, regardless of gender identity,” said Lori Rifkin, lead attorney for Edmo.

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