CA Won't Block Surgery for Transgender Inmate
SACRAMENTO (CN) - California prison officials have set a date with doctors for the first sex-reassignment surgery on an inmate in the state's history, new federal court documents show.
Transgender inmate Michelle Norsworthy will receive the historic surgery on July 1 as long as she passes preliminary checkups and health screenings. In a status report filed Friday by the court-appointed receiver for the state's prison medical care system, Clark Kelso said the state has reached an agreement with Brownstein & Crane Surgical Services to perform the surgery at Marin General Hospital.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar ordered the state to "promptly" schedule and pay for Norsworthy's sex-reassignment surgery, ruling the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation violated her constitutional rights by denying the surgery.
"The evidence suggests that Norsworthy's request for SRS was denied because CDCR has a blanket policy barring SRS as a treatment for transgender inmates," Tigar wrote.
Following Tigar's ruling, the CDCR quickly filed an appeal with the 9th Circuit and also asked for a stay of Tigar's decision. The motion to stay was denied and the CDCR was forced to allow its federally appointed receiver to schedule the surgery.
"We will continue working with the federal receiver to ensure we are in compliance with the lower court's order," CDCR spokeswoman Terry Thornton told Courthouse News. "In the meantime, we are awaiting a decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on our request for an urgent stay in this case until our appeal can be heard."
Corrections officials argue that Norsworthy has received adequate treatment for her gender dysphoria over the last 15 years and that "no treating physician has determined that sex reassignment surgery is medically necessary for Ms. Norsworthy."
The CDCR had motioned for a stay of Tigar's ruling in order to delay the surgery while the ruling is appealed in the 9th Circuit, but was unsuccessful after Tigar found the department had little chance of succeeding with its appeal.
Norsworthy, 51, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison in 1987.
She began living as a woman while in prison. She says she has been raped six times in prison, and contracted hepatitis C from a gang rape in 2009.
The status report does not mention the cost of the surgery, although estimates have ranged widely from $15,000 to $100,000. Nine states, including California, require private insurers to cover medical care related to gender transition, according to the Transgender Law Center.
The federal receiver said the CDCR won't prevent Norsworthy from preliminary evaluations and will cooperate with the surgeon's medical requests.
"[The state] has no reason to believe that B&C's surgical consultation with plaintiff and any related preoperative procedures cannot occur while the parties are awaiting decision from the 9th Circuit regarding the stay application," Kelso wrote.