Metro Weekly

Idaho transgender woman’s surgery stalled pending 9th Circuit decision

Lawyers for Adree Edmo hope the 9th Circuit will find denying her surgery violates her Eighth Amendment rights

Idaho State Correctional Complex – Photo: Idaho Department of Correction, via Facebook.

A transgender Idaho inmate who was slated to receive gender confirmation surgery will be forced to wait a few more months while a federal appeals court weighs in on her case, reports The Idaho Statesman.

Adree Edmo, who was sentenced to prison in 2012, sued the Idaho Department of Correction and Corizon LLC, which contracts with the department to provide medical services to inmates, after she was denied gender confirmation surgery. 

Even though Edmo had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, and the surgery was deemed medically necessary by her doctors, the state of Idaho argued that the surgery was simply cosmetic and not necessary to treat her condition.

Enlisting the help of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Edmo asked the court to stop the Department of Correction and Corizon from continuing to block her from receiving the surgery.

In December, a federal judge issued an injunction against the state and Corizon, finding that the specific circumstances relating to Edmo’s gender dysphoria — including the fact that she had already undergone hormone therapy and has attempted to castrate herself twice — make surgery a medical necessity.

“For more than 40 years, the Supreme Court has consistently held that consciously ignoring a prisoner’s serious medical needs amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment,” U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill wrote in his ruling at the time.

The state of Idaho appealed the decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which agreed on Mar. 20 to stay the lower court’s ruling until it could issue a ruling on the merits. The 9th Circuit is expected to hear arguments as to why the surgery should be allowed to proceed in the coming months.

If the surgery is eventually allowed to proceed, Edmo could become the second incarcerated transgender person in the United States to receive gender confirmation surgery while in custody. California became the first state to pay for an inmate’s gender confirmation surgery in 2015, when the state agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by inmate Shiloh Quine.

Corizon, which contracts with many prison systems around the country, has previously come under scrutiny for refusing to provide transition-related care to other transgender inmates. In Missouri, inmate Jessica Hicklin filed a lawsuit after the state department of corrections and Corizon refused to provide her with hormone therapy due to the state’s “freeze-frame” policy, which only allowed transgender people who had been receiving medical care for gender dysphoria prior to their incarceration to continue receiving it while serving their sentences. A federal judge later declared the “freeze-frame” policy unconstitutional.

David McClusky, a surgeon by trade and chairman of the Idaho Board of Correction, argues that the refusal to provide Edmo with surgery — as well as disagreement over whether the surgery is medically necessary — does not rise to the level of “cruel and unusual punishment.”

But Shannon Minter, the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, maintains that the denial of care does violate Edmo’s Eighth Amendment rights. He also noted that the 9th Circuit has agreed to expedite Edmo’s case, but no court date for oral arguments has been set yet.

“While it was not unusual for the 9th Circuit to stay the ruling, it was very frustrating and disappointing, because the decision was so meticulous and careful, and was based on a strong evidentiary record,” Minter told Metro Weekly in an interview. “But it does not indicate that the court is leaning one way or the other.

“In the end, we’re very hopeful and optimistic that the 9th Circuit will confirm the district court’s conclusion that the facility must provide [Edmo] with medically necessary care.”

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

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