SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals says the state of Idaho must provide sex reassignment surgery, also known as gender confirmation surgery, to a transgender inmate, Adree Edmo. Amanda Peacher of the Mountain West News Bureau reports that Edmo is now slated to receive - to be the first transgender woman in the nation to receive the operation through her court order. And a brief warning - this story includes a mention of self-harm.
AMANDA PEACHER, BYLINE: Adree Edmo is a transgender woman who has been housed in an all-male prison since 2012. She twice attempted to castrate herself with a razor, unsuccessfully. Her lawyers say those attempts are clear signs that Edmo's medical treatment is inadequate. Now the prison will have to provide the gender confirmation surgery Edmo has been requesting for years.
LORI RIFKIN: She was excited and happy to hear the news and really just experiencing tremendous sense of relief.
PEACHER: That's Lori Rifkin, Edmo's lead attorney. She says prison officials denied Edmo treatment for gender dysphoria. That's when someone's physical body doesn't match their gender identity, and it can cause debilitating distress.
RIFKIN: What this decision stands for is a basic principle of our Constitution. It's a basic value of our country that we treat all people, including those in prison, with basic decency and dignity, and we do not ignore their suffering.
PEACHER: The 9th Circuit agreed that denying Edmo the surgery constituted cruel and unusual punishment. In the opinion, the judges wrote that, quote, "responsible prison officials were deliberately indifferent to Edmo's gender dysphoria in violation of the Eighth Amendment." The ruling could have a ripple effect in other states as prison officials grapple with the rights of transgender inmates and their medical needs.
In a statement, Idaho Governor Brad Little called the ruling extremely disappointing and says the state will appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court takes up very few of the cases that are filed, but law professor Michael Mushlin from Pace University says it could happen here because other circuit courts have ruled differently on this issue.
MICHAEL MUSHLIN: They have an argument for the Supreme Court to review the case because now there is a clear split in the circuits.
PEACHER: As of now, the timeline for Edmo's surgery would be set during a status conference in mid-September with the Idaho judge who initially ruled in her favor. For NPR News, I'm Amanda Peacher.
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