A federal appeals panel has granted the state of Idaho’s request to postpone sex reassignment surgery for a transgender inmate. The inmate’s case now awaits a decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Inmate Adree Edmo is diagnosed with gender dysphoria and has been on hormone treatments while in prison. She’s twice attempted to castrate herself, without success. Her lawyers argue that denying her sex reassignment surgery constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill agreed.
Amy Whelan, senior staff attorney with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, is one of several attorneys representing Edmo. "Every major and mental health association including the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare agree that surgery is medically necessary to treat severe cases of gender dysphoria, such as Ms. Edmo’s," says Whelan.
The state of Idaho argues that gender confirmation surgery is not medically necessary. The agency declined to comment for this story, citing policy not to comment on pending litigation. Corizon Inc., the private medical care company for the Idaho Department of Correction and another defendant in the case, also declined to comment.
When Edmo won in Federal District Court the judge ordered the state to provide her the surgery by mid-June. But the appeals court sided with the state on its motion, which argued it shouldn’t move forward with the procedure until the appeal is decided. The 9th Circuit is scheduled to hear arguments in May, which is an unusually fast timeline for an appeal.
Whelan expressed disappointment in the court's motion to stay the surgery order.
"But we’re very happy to see that the 9th Circuit’s order recognizes the urgency of this case and has expedited the appeal," says Whelan. "That is a very unusual step that a court takes, and the fact that they did that and that the matter will be heard in May reflects that they understand the urgency of the case and the urgency of Ms. Edmo’s medical issues."
If Edmo prevails, she’ll be the first transgender inmate to receive sex reassignment surgery through court order.
31-year-old Adree Edmo was sentenced in 2012 under charges for sexual abuse of a child under 16. She is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and grew up on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. Her sentence will be satisfied in 2021. She is not eligible for parole because of multiple disciplinary offenses during her time in prison, which stem from her attempts to appear more feminine -- to style her hair in a feminine manner, or wear cosmetics, for example.
During the district couring hearings in the fall, Edmo's lawyers asked her if it would be easier to simply stop presenting as feminine. Edmo replied that it would not.
“It would be making me feel like I had to conform to something or somebody that I'm not," she testified. "And that is not who I am. I mean, it would -- it's embarrassing. It's difficult and it's depressing."
Find reporter Amanda Peacher on Twitter @amandapeacher.
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This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.