Idaho court rules refusing transgender surgery for inmate is ‘cruel and unusual’

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Idaho Gov. Brad Little plans to fight an appeals court ruling against his state on transgender surgery for a convicted sex offender currently behind bars.

The Republican governor called the ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week “extremely disappointing” in a statement issued after the state lost the appeal following a federal judge’s order to provide gender confirmation surgery to a transgender inmate, KTVB reported.

(Video: KIVI/YouTube)

The historic decision would make Adree Edmo the first transgender inmate to receive the surgery through a court order while under Idaho Department of Correction custody. The court ruled that the state’s refusal to allow the 31-year-old the “gender reassignment” surgery was “cruel and unusual punishment,” in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“The court’s decision is extremely disappointing,” Little said in a statement. “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,” he added. “We cannot divert critical public dollars away from the higher priorities of keeping the public safe and rehabilitating offenders.”

Edmo’s attorney, however, saw the court’s ruling as a “complete win” for the plaintiff who is seeking monetary damages.

(Image: screenshot)

“Our client is immensely relieved and grateful that the court recognized her basic right to medical treatment,”  attorney Lori Rifkin said.

Edmo, who has been serving in a men’s prison in Idaho since being convicted in 2012 for sexually abusing a child younger than 16, is eligible for release in 2021. Edmo sued in 2017 contending that the state’s refusal to provide her with gender confirmation surgery resulted in severe distress due to her “gender dysphoria.”

Rifkin argued that this distress caused her client to twice attempt to cut her own testicles while in prison. In December, U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled that the convicted sex offender had demonstrated a serious medical need which needed to be addressed to avoid further injury or pain.

The state was then given six months to provide Edmo with the surgery but was granted a stay.

Findings by the state’s experts and mental health professionals, as cited in the governor’s statement, were rejected by the federal court.

“In contrast to Edmo’s experts, the State’s witnesses lacked relevant experience, could not explain their deviations from generally accepted guidelines, and testified illogically and inconsistently in important ways,” the appeals court said, adding that one of the psychiatrists treating Edmo in prison “acted with deliberate indifference to Edmo’s serious medical needs.”

Rifkin indicated that the stay will be lifted in three weeks but Little’s plans to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court could affect the surgery time frame.

KIVI-TV‘s Madeline White cited a Reuter’s report that indicated transgender surgery could cost up to $100,000, fueling the debate as to why the state is responsible to provide the costly procedure to someone incarcerated for a serious crime – and a sexual one against a minor at that.

An Iowa Public Radio report, however, noted that Corizon, the contracted health care provider for Idaho’s prisons, “will have to move forward with arranging for the procedure, which can cost between $20,000 and $30,000.”

Twitter users reacted to the court’s historic ruling.


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