Transgender inmate reassignment surgery sparking conversation

Many are debating what is medically necessary in regards to the state's refusal to pay for a prisoner's gender reassignment surgery.
Posted at 10:26 PM, Jan 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-12 16:00:53-05

BOISE, IDAHO — As 6 On Your Side previously reported, Governor Brad Little announced Wednesday that the Idaho Department of Correction has appealed a U.S. District Court ruling that orders the State of Idaho to provide gender reassignment surgery to an inmate. This-- now sparking some intense debates.

Transgender people diagnosed with gender dysphoria often feel forced to get by in a world that seems stacked against them; some feeling they must undergo expensive surgeries to feel whole. But should the State of Idaho be required to foot the bill for an inmate requesting gender reassignment surgery?

In her case against the Idaho Department of Correction, 31-year-old transgender inmate Adree Edmo-- who has been diagnosed with gender Dysphoria-- states that she will suffer "serious psychological harm and will be at high risk of self-castration and suicide" in the absence of gender reassignment surgery.

"Some people only need hormone therapy so they can feel like they're in the right gender," said Dr. Ashley Davis, MD, a Family Physician in Boise. "Other people need surgery to help them get to the point where they feel like they're in the right place with their gender."

Edmo has been in a men's prison near Boise for the past 7 years on charges related to the sexual abuse of a child under 16.

"I don't believe that anyone should be getting special special privileges-- especially someone who's in there for crimes against children," said Krystal Johnson, a Meridian resident.

The Supreme Court has held that consciously ignoring a prisoner's serious medical needs amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the eighth amendment.

Dr. Davis says the transgender experience is on a spectrum.

"Gender conforming surgery is a medical necessity for those who feel like the surgical-- feel like their bodies-- need to match how they feel," said Davis.

But some say inmates shouldn't be able to get it covered, when a person out of prison often cannot.

"There's not much moral fiber in saying, 'Hey here you go, commit a crime and we'll give you whatever you want,'" said Johnson.

Some are saying, 'Why couldn't she have gotten the surgery before?'

"I'm not surprised at all that this person waited several years after they were incarcerated to suddenly decide, because... it's not been a sudden thing. This person has probably been wrestling with this."

Still, like Governor Little, Johnson says Edmo should have to wait.

"He can top out his time in 2021, and at that time save up for a surgery just like everybody else."

The cost? According to Reuters News Agency, the Philadelphia Center for Transgender Surgery lists menus of procedures for both male to female and female to male that total well over $100,000.

The case will now proceed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. 6 On Your Side will keep you updated.