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Ninth Circuit court rules state of Idaho must pay for inmate’s sex change surgery

Judge's gavel. (Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau/U.S. Air Force)
August 28, 2019

The state of Idaho is vowing to take a recent ruling before the Supreme Court after a Ninth Circuit court determined the state must pay for a transgender inmate’s sex reassignment surgery.

Inmate Adree Edmo, a convicted sex offender is currently housed in a men’s prison and has been incarcerated since 2012 after having pleaded guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy at a house party.

Edmo, 31, was diagnosed in 2012 with gender dysphoria, by Prison Dr. Scott Eliason. Since 2012, prison officials have provided Edmo with hormone therapy as a means of alleviating Edmo’s gender dysphoria, but the Ninth Court ruling found the prison at fault for having not provided Edmo with ‘gender confirmation surgery.’

Born as Mason Edmo, Adree first filed a civil rights complaint against the Idaho Department of Correction in 2017. Edmo is due for release in 2021.

Edmo’s attorney Deborah Ferguson argued that her client is at serious risk of self-harm without the surgery, according to reporting in January by Idaho CBS affiliate KBOI-TV.

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Ferguson compared Edmo’s need for the surgery to that of treating an inmate with cancer or diabetes and the case is an eighth amendment complaint, arguing that the withholding the gender confirmation surgery for Edmo amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

“We have a very severe case here,” Ferguson said. “To keep Ms. Edmo out of harm’s way for her basic dignity and health, this is something that she very much needs.”

The latest ruling comes after the first appeal following a December 2018 ruling by the U.S. District Court for Idaho determined the state must provide the surgery for Edmo. Judge B. Lynn Winmill set a mid-June deadline for the state to provide for Edmo’s surgery.

Since filing its appeal in January, the state has reportedly spent in excess of $325,000 to fight the ruling that handed down to them. With the latest ruling and plans for appeal, the case appears bound before the Supreme Court.

“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,” Idaho Governor Brad Little said in a press release Friday, following the latest ruling.

The Republican governor further described the ruling as running the risk of diverting public funds from “higher priorities” including rehabilitating other offenders.”

Edmo is not the only inmate requesting the surgery as the Idaho Department of Correction has said there have been five new requests since the start of 2019.