A federal judge says Idaho prison officials cannot delay gender confirmation surgery for a transgender inmate while they appeal the court ruling requiring them to provide the surgery.
U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill made the order Monday, saying he believed the Idaho Department of Correction's appeal in the case was likely to fail and that delaying Adree Edmo's surgery could cause her great harm. The ruling means the original June 13 deadline for providing the surgery remains in place.
"We'll be looking at the order and considering our next steps," Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "We have nothing more to add right now."
Edmo sued for access to the surgery in 2017. She has been continually housed in a men's prison since her conviction of sexual abuse of a child in 2012, but has been living as a woman for years according to the lawsuit. She has been receiving hormone therapy while behind bars, but wrote in her lawsuit that the medication alone was not enough to treat her severe gender dysmorphia, which occurs when the incongruity between a person's assigned gender and their gender identity is so severe that it impairs their ability to function. Edmo contends she has also been barred from dressing and styling her hair in a way that reflects her gender identity.
Winmill ruled in December that the state's denial of the surgery amounted to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment, and said Edmo proved she had a serious medical need and failure to treat it would result in significant injury or unnecessary pain.
The state began the appeal process a short time later, with state officials noting that the prison's own medical professionals say surgery would be the wrong treatment for Edmo's condition and that the state shouldn't be obligated to provide a surgery to an inmate that many privately insured Idahoans can't get covered.
"Defendants, in seeking a stay, rehash the arguments they presented during the three-day evidentiary hearing in this case," Winmill wrote. "The Court was unpersuaded by the arguments then, and remains so now."
Winmill says he isn't convinced that IDOC will be irreparably injured if the order for surgery isn't put on hold. The judge did say, however, such a delay will "substantially injure Ms. Edmo."
"Indeed, given Edmo's past actions, time is of the essence," Winmill wrote, referring to Edmo's history of twice trying to remove her own genitals using a razor blade in her cell, and saying he feared she could try again. "In short, her medical needs are urgent."
The deadline could potentially make the appeal somewhat moot — in January, the Idaho Department of Correction asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for extra time to file their opening brief in the appellate case, and the circuit court agreed. The state now has until March 6 to take that step, and Edmo's attorneys have until April 6 to file their own brief in response. Idaho's attorneys could then potentially file another reply brief, kicking the process out another 21 days. But even if the state chooses not to file that second brief, that would still leave just under 10 weeks for the appeal to be decided until the state's June 13 deadline to provide the surgery arrives.