State Politics

Little: Idaho to appeal ruling requiring state to pay for transgender inmate’s surgery

Gov. Brad Little makes his first State of the State addresses to a combined Idaho House and Senate on Monday, Jan. 7, 2019.
Gov. Brad Little makes his first State of the State addresses to a combined Idaho House and Senate on Monday, Jan. 7, 2019.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little announced Wednesday that Idaho Department of Correction has appealed a U.S. District Court order requiring the state to provide gender reassignment surgery to an inmate.

U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill on Dec. 13 gave IDOC six months to provide the surgery for Adree Edmo, 31, an inmate who was born male but identifies as a woman.

“The hard working taxpayers of Idaho should not be forced to pay for a prisoner’s gender reassignment surgery when individual insurance plans won’t even cover it,” Little said in a news release. “We cannot divert critical public dollars away from our focus on keeping the public safe and rehabilitating offenders.”

New Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin said she supports the decision to appeal the ruling.

“Taxpayer dollars are to be utilized to keep the public safe and Idaho leaders must ensure the government serves its proper role to that effect,” she said in a written statement.

If the procedure is performed, it would be the first time an inmate has undergone gender reassignment surgery while in the state’s custody.

Edmo is incarcerated at Idaho State Correctional Center, a 2,166-bed men’s prison south of Boise. Edmo is serving a sentence of three to 10 years for sexual abuse of a child under 16 in Bannock County. The sentence ends July 3, 2021.

The new chairman of the Board of Correction, Dr. David McClusky, a licensed general surgeon with more than 35 years of experience, said the court confused its opinion with medical consensus in this case, according to the news release.

“If Ms. Edmo had a broken arm, we’d all agree it should be treated,” McClusky said. “But disagreement among medical professionals in this case does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.”

“We take seriously our responsibility to provide adequate care to those in our custody,” new IDOC Director Josh Tewalt said. “But prison is not where you go to get unwarranted surgery. We’re confident subsequent rulings will agree.”

The case will now go to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Idaho Statesman investigative reporter Cynthia Sewell was named Idaho Press Club reporter of the year in 2017 and 2008. A University of Oregon graduate, she joined the Statesman in 2005. Her family has lived in Idaho since the mid-1800s.