After years of legal disputes, Adree Edmo has received gender confirmation surgery, making her the second incarcerated person in the country to undergo the surgery while in prison.
Edmo, a trans woman, has been in the custody of the Idaho Department of Corrections since 2012. Upon her arrival at a men’s prison, she was diagnosed with gender dysphoria. The surgery was deemed as medically necessary, as her mental health was severely impacted. Edmo had previously struggled with suicidal ideation and during her time in prison, attempted self-castration twice.
In 2017, Edmo filed a lawsuit against the state of Idaho and the healthcare partner of the Idaho Department of Corrections upon their refusal to provide the surgery as a medically necessary treatment for her dysphoria. Last year, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that denying Edmo gender confirmation surgery would constitute a violation of the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment.” The court upheld this ruling earlier this year when the state of Idaho asked for another hearing with a larger panel of judges.
Although the court ruled in Edmo’s favor, Idaho Governor Brad Little later announced his intentions to take the case to the Supreme Court. Little believed the court’s decision went against the original meaning of the Eighth Amendment and fought against Edmo’s right to receive the surgery.
“Sadly, the elected officials in Idaho, both in the Legislature and the governor, have taken a particularly hostile attitude towards transgender people… The governor is doubling down on that attitude and willingness to harm transgender people by appealing this lawsuit,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director at the Human Rights Campaign. Just a few weeks after the governor’s announcement that he would be appealing the case, the Supreme Court turned down the request to hear the case, and let stand the appellate court’s ruling in favor of Edmo.
In upholding their ruling, the appellate court marked a milestone in LGBTQ rights. “With its decision today, our court becomes the first federal court of appeals to mandate that a State pay for and provide sex-reassignment surgery to a prisoner under the Eighth Amendment,” said the opinion. According to her lawyers, Edmo received the surgery earlier this month.
Edmo is the second person to receive gender confirmation surgery while in prison, after the state of California agreed to provide the surgery for an inmate in 2015. Although Edmo has finally received the surgery, her legal disputes will likely continue. According to her attorney, Edmo has a claim for damages after years of refusal from the state to provide the treatment.
Sources: CNN 7/29/20; NBC News 5/8/20; NY Times 5/21/20