Idaho must provide gender reassignment surgery to inmate jailed for abusing child: 9th Circuit

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Unsplash/Emiliano Bar

The U.S Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that the state of Idaho must provide gender reassignment surgery for a trans-identified inmate imprisoned for sexual abuse of a minor. 

In an 85-page ruling Friday, the Ninth Circuit, one of the most left-leaning courts in the country, ruled that the Idaho Department of Correction violated the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution barring cruel and unusual punishment by refusing to provide gender reassignment surgery for 31-year-old Adree Edmo.

The ruling from the three-judge panel effectively upheld a similar ruling against the state in U.S. District Court last December. At the time, Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled that the state was ignoring Edmo’s “medical needs.”

Edmo is a biological male who identifies as a female. Edmo was first jailed in 2012 in a men’s prison after being charged with sexually abusing a child under the age of 16. But shortly after Edmo was sentenced, the inmate was diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Edmo has undergone years of hormone therapy. 

Gender dysphoria is the condition in which a person feels a disconnect between their biological sex and gender identity and can cause emotional distress for many affected by it. As for Edmo, the inmate has attempted self-castration twice while in prison and is set to be released in 2021. 

KUNC reports that Edmo will be the first transgender inmate in the nation to receive sex reassignment surgery through a court order. NPR notes that the procedure could cost anywhere between $20,000 to $30,000.

Considering that the ruling would allow Edmo to become the first inmate to receive gender reassignment surgery in IDOC custody, Idaho’s Republican Gov. Brad Little has vowed to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

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

According to NPR, the state has 90 days to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. 

The Ninth Circuit’s ruling was praised by LGBT advocates and supporters on social media, while critics voiced concern that someone convicted of sexual abuse for a minor would have such a surgery paid for. 

An attorney for Edmo called the ruling a “complete win” for her client. 

"Our client is immensely relieved and grateful that the court recognized her basic right to medical treatment,” Attorney Lori Rifkin said in a statement.

Rifkin told NPR that her client “suffers every single day while they have denied this treatment to her for years.” 

"[T]here can be no reason justifying Idaho's continued refusal to provide her care except bias," Rifkin argued. 

Social conservatives have opposed the use of tax dollars to pay for gender reassignment surgeries and procedures. 

Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow for policy studies at the social conservative advocacy group Family Research Council, told The Christian Post after the lower court’s ruling in December that a ruling in favor of Edmo is a “triumph for political correctness, not of medicine or justice.” 

Sprigg argued that gender reassignment surgery is "essentially elective and cosmetic.”

“Even under the Obama administration, the Department of Health and Human Services concluded there was not sufficient evidence to prove that such surgery is ‘medically necessary,’” Sprigg said at the time. “While there is some evidence that it alleviates the immediate ‘gender dysphoria,’ there is no evidence that it results in better overall physical and mental health for such patients in the long run.”

Earlier this month, a federal judge in Wisconsin ruled that Wisconsin must allow its Medicaid program to cover gender reassignment surgeries and hormone therapies for trans-identified individuals. 

That ruling followed an October 2018 ruling against Wisconsin in which the state was forced to pay $780,000 to two transgender state employees whom the state refused to provide health insurance that covered sex-reassignment surgeries and hormone therapy. 

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