High Court Allows Inmate’s Sex Reassignment Surgery

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The Supreme Court turned down Idaho’s request to block court-ordered sex reassignment surgery for a transgender prisoner, reports the New York Times. The court order let stand a ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in favor of Adree Edmo, a transgender woman. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito would have granted the prison officials’ request for a stay of the Ninth Circuit’s ruling. Edmo, who was convicted of sexually assaulting a sleeping 15-year-old boy, is scheduled to be released next year. She has been treated for gender dysphoria, the distress caused by incongruence between experienced gender and that assigned at birth, with hormone therapy and counseling.

A prison psychiatrist denied her request for surgery notwithstanding two attempts by Edmo at self-castration. Edmo sued, saying that the failure to provide the surgery violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. She won in the trial court and a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit. After the full Ninth Circuit refused to rehear the case, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, joined by eight other judges, said the panel had relied on standards from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, which he called “a controversial self-described advocacy group that dresses up ideological commitments as evidence-based conclusions.” The judge added, “I do not know whether sex-reassignment surgery will ameliorate or exacerbate Adree Edmo’s suffering. Fortunately, the Constitution does not ask federal judges to put on white coats and decide vexed questions of psychiatric medicine.”

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