Is Idaho Inmate Entitled to Sex-Reassignment Surgery?

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is considering whether Adree Edmo, an Idaho transgender inmate, is entitled to gender confirmation (sex reassignment) surgery, as ordered by a lower court judge. If Edmo wins, she’d become the first inmate to get the surgery through court order, and it could open doors for others, NPR reports. Edmo’s lawyers contend that gender confirmation surgery is vital, life-saving treatment and denying her that care constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. The state says the surgery is not medically necessary and that Edmo does not meet criteria for the procedure.

Edmo, 31, is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and grew up on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in rural eastern Idaho. She was listed male on her birth certificate. She has described feeling like a girl from the age of 5. Edmo was convicted of driving under the influence and felony fraud, for writing checks on a bank account that she’d closed. After Edmo was incarcerated, she was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, which describes the discontent someone experiences when their gender identity doesn’t align with the sex they were assigned at birth. “Gender dysphoria is a medical condition just like cancer,” says her attorney, Lori Rifkin. “If somebody requires surgery or chemotherapy or radiation to shrink their tumor, that is what we give them.” Idaho houses prisoners according to their genitalia, which means trans women like Adree Edmo live in all-male facilities. Walter Olson of the libertarian Cato Institute, says if the judges rule in Edmo’s favor, they may be ahead of public views about gender confirmation surgery. “The standard of cruel and unusual punishment is kind of hitched inherently to public opinion,” he says.

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