Metro Weekly

Transgender inmate in Indiana suing over denial of medical care

Anthony Loveday claims "freeze-frame" policy denying hormone therapy violates her Eighth Amendment rights

Photo: pecchio.nero, via Wikimedia.

A transgender inmate in Indiana is suing the state Department of Correction over its refusal to allow her to receive hormone therapy to treat her gender dysphoria.

Anthony Loveday, who is serving a 39-year sentence at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, Ind., was diagnosed with gender dysphoria two years ago. As a result of her gender dysphoria, Loveday experiences anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation, and has requested that the Department of Correction allow her to receive hormone therapy for the purposes of helping her transition.

But the Department of Correction has refused, falling back on its “freeze-frame” policy, under which medical professionals can refuse to provide hormone treatment if the inmate had not been receiving that treatment prior to their conviction. Loveday and her lawyers argue that this is discriminatory, and violates Loveday’s Eighth Amendment right not to be subjected to “cruel and unusual punishment.”

In their lawsuit against the state, Loveday’s lawyers argue that the hormone treatment is medically necessary and is needed to ensure that Loveday does not attempt self-harm while in prison. According to the complaint, Loveday is receiving talk therapy from a mental health professional, but that therapy is not intended to help her treat her gender dysphoria.

“The defendant, well aware of Ms. Loveday’s gender dysphoria, remains deliberately indifferent to Ms. Loveday’s serious medical need by refusing to provide hormone therapy that is medically necessary for Ms. Loveday insofar as without it she is suffering from anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and other mental health issues,” the complaint reads. “Ms. Loveday is suffering irreparable injury for which there is no adequate remedy at law.”

Loveday’s lawyers are asking the court to accept the case, rule that the “freeze-frame” policy currently in effect at the Indiana State prison violates their client’s rights, and issue an injunction to compel prison authorities to allow Loveday to receive hormone therapy.

“The Supreme Court has long held that deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment,” Jan Mensz, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which is representing Loveday, said in an email exchange.

“Gender dysphoria is a serious medical condition, which left untreated may result in pain, suffering, self-mutilation, and suicide. Prison officials must treat gender dysphoria like any other serious medical condition, and provide appropriate treatment, which in this case is hormone therapy.”

Loveday’s is the recent in several high-profile cases involving transgender inmates who have been denied medical care for their gender dysphoria. Last month, an inmate in Oregon settled with that state’s Department of Corrections after officials promised she would receive transition-related medical care. In 2015, transgender inmate in Massachusetts appealed to the Supreme Court, asking the justices to take up her case after the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 3-2 that the Massachusetts Department of Corrections was not obligated to provide her with gender confirmation surgery. The high court eventually refused to hear the case, allowing the circuit court’s ruling to stand.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com