News broke Thursday morning that Chelsea Manning intends to begin hormone therapy while in prison as part of her gender transition, but a statement released by the U.S. Army suggests that access may be a legal struggle.
“Inmates at the United States Disciplinary Barracks and Joint Regional Correctional Facility are treated equally regardless of race, rank, ethnicity or sexual orientation,” Army spokesman George Wright told Politico.
Wright continued that while "all inmates are considered soldiers and are treated as such with access to mental health professionals including a psychiatrist, psychologist, social workers and behavioral science noncommissioned officers," the Army does not "provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder."
Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, said that Manning has not yet indicated whether she intends to seek gender reassignment surgery in addition to hormone therapy, but noted that he will fight to ensure Manning has access to hormone therapy and that she is "comfortable in her skin" and able to "be the person that she’s never had an opportunity to be,” while incarcerated.
The American Civil Liberties Union has also weighed in on the subject of Manning's access to hormone therapy, arguing that denying Manning hormone therapy may be a violation of her constitutional rights: "Without the necessary treatment, gender dysphoria can cause severe psychological distress, including anxiety and suicide. When the government holds individuals in its custody, it must provide them with medically necessary care,” ACLU staff attorney Chase Strangio said in a statement. “The official policy of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and most state agencies is to provide medically necessary care for the treatment of gender dysphoria, and courts have consistently found that denying such care to prisoners based on blanket exclusions violates the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.”