OPINION: Fight in transgender inmate’s surgery case is a fight for what is right and reasonable

Friday August 30, 2019

By Governor Brad Little

Activist federal judges overstepped yet again in a case involving an Idaho transgender inmate seeking gender reassignment surgery.

If upheld, taxpayers will foot the bill down the road for more lawsuits and medically unnecessary procedures for prisoners.

Adree Edmo is a transgender prisoner serving time for sexually abusing a 15-year-old child. Edmo was born male but identifies as a woman, and is seeking gender reassignment surgery. Edmo would have been eligible for parole by now but has chosen not to follow the prison’s rules of conduct. There are numerous instances of Edmo engaging in violence and other prohibited conduct while incarcerated, eliminating the opportunity for parole.

Last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision to provide the surgery while ignoring the professional opinions of Edmo’s doctors and mental health professionals, who universally agreed gender reassignment surgery is neither medically necessary nor safe given Edmo’s mental state and incarceration.

These medical professionals have been treating Edmo for more than seven years. The judges instead relied on the testimony of a medical “expert” hired by the prisoner’s attorneys who interviewed Edmo for only a few hours before forming the opinion that the surgery was medically necessary.

I quickly declared my plans to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.


Judges shouldn’t replace doctors. This case sets a dangerous and costly precedent. It opens the door to let activist judges decide – over the opinion of medical professionals – which procedures inmates will receive in the state’s custody. Activist judges shouldn’t force taxpayers to pay for a medical procedure that was not approved by the treating physician and multiple mental health professionals.

Some are lamenting the decision to appeal, saying it is a waste of taxpayer dollars. However, the potential cost to taxpayers of not fighting the decision justifies my action.

If the standard is changed and activist judges can now second-guess the opinion of medical professionals, then taxpayers will foot the bill for more unnecessary procedures and more lawsuits down the road.

We must remain focused on reducing our prison population, not incentivizing people to get in prison and stay in prison. We should not divert critical public dollars away from the priorities of keeping the public safe and rehabilitating offenders.

I am hopeful Idaho’s appeal will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. There are similar cases in other Circuit Courts where rulings conflict with the Ninth Circuit’s decision in this case, making it more likely our appeal will be considered.

In the meantime, I hope you stand with me for what is reasonable and right – appealing this troubling decision to the highest court in the land.

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