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Attorneys spar over whether to remove surgery date for transgender Idaho inmate

Adree Edmo, 32, is set to receive gender confirmation surgery in July, according to a court document filed Monday.
Credit: IDOC
Adree Edmo could soon become the first Idaho inmate to receive gender confirmation surgery while in Idaho Department of Correction custody.

BOISE, Idaho — Attorneys representing a transgender woman in an Idaho men’s prison who has sued the state to receive gender confirmation surgery accused the state in a new court document of trying to “manufacture an issue” in the case for the U.S. Supreme Court to review.

The Idaho Press reports Adree Edmo, 32, is set to receive gender confirmation surgery in July, according to a court document filed Monday. Gender confirmation surgery is a treatment for severe gender dysphoria, a condition in which the dissonance between a person’s gender at birth and the gender with which they identify is significant and distressing for the person. Prison doctors diagnosed Edmo with the condition in 2012, and while she received treatment for it, doctors have not recommended the surgery, saying they didn’t believe it was necessary.

RELATED: State of Idaho appeals to U.S. Supreme Court to stop transgender inmate's surgery

In 2017, Edmo filed a lawsuit against the state and the Idaho Department of Correction’s health care partner, Corizon Health, saying they had violated her 8th Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. Both a federal district court and an appellate court ruled in Edmo’s favor — meaning she would be only the second prisoner in the country to receive the procedure while incarcerated. Earlier this month, the state’s attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in, but justices have not yet said if they will.

The state also asked for a stay on the July surgery date, and the response Edmo’s attorneys filed Monday argued against that. Edmo was sentenced for sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy and is currently at the Idaho State Correctional Center south of Boise. Her sentence will be satisfied in July 2021.

“A stay removing that surgery date from the calendar would consign Ms. Edmo to another year of ‘escalating risks of self-surgery, suicide, and emotional decompensation’ … which vastly outweigh any harm to (the state and Corizon Health),” according to the response.

RELATED: Appeals court won't reconsider Idaho inmate's gender surgery case

The state’s attorneys, in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, argued the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals “constitutionalized” the World Professional Association of Transgender Health Standards of Care — meaning judges took those standards and treated them as if they were the Constitution. The standards are considered the generally accepted guidelines for when gender confirmation surgery is necessary to treat gender dysphoria.

“By constitutionalizing a right to controversial medical treatments with complex practical ramifications simply based on the views of an advocacy organization, the Ninth Circuit has tied the hands of prison providers and administrators,” attorneys representing the state wrote in their application for a stay earlier this month.

But Edmo’s attorneys argued the case has never been about anyone other than Edmo herself — the question is simply whether the treatment was right for Edmo, and whether the Idaho Department of Correction and Corizon Health violated her 8th Amendment rights by not providing the surgery. Her attorneys quote the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision as urging the state to move forward with the surgery and also writing that they “emphatically do not speak to other cases.”

Edmo’s attorneys argue pushing back the surgery poses a risk to Edmo herself — she has tried to self-castrate herself in prison twice already, and it’s possible she could do so again if she does not receive gender confirmation surgery, according to the document.

RELATED: Two Idaho inmates who died by suicide in year's span had gender dysphoria

According to Deborah Ferguson, one of Edmo’s attorneys, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Elena Kagan ordered the response to the state’s request for a stay to be filed by Monday afternoon. With both the request for a stay and the response to it in hand, justices can decide whether Edmo’s surgery should be pushed back.

Marissa Morrison Hyer, spokeswoman for Gov. Brad Little, did not immediately return an email seeking comment Monday afternoon.

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