01 Illinois gender affirming surgery prison
CNN  — 

A federal judge in Illinois on Monday ruled that the US Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has to immediately find a qualified surgeon so that a transgender prisoner, Cristina Nichole Iglesias, can receive gender-affirming surgery, court documents show.

Earlier in the case, the district court had ordered the BOP to evaluate Iglesias for gender-affirming surgery, but the BOP sought to postpone any referral to a surgeon for months, court records show. The BOP “employed tactics similar to the game of Plinko on The Price is Right,” Chief Judge Nancy Rosenstengel said in Monday’s ruling, comparing their tactics to a game of “whack-a-mole.”

This week’s order from the court now requires the BOP to provide a detailed timeline for Iglesias’s surgery, including providing the court with a list of all surgeons within the United States who are qualified to perform gender-affirming surgery, the ruling states.

“I am hopeful that I will finally get the care I need to live my life fully as the woman I am,” Cristina Iglesias said in a statement provided to CNN by the ACLU of Illinois. The “BOP has denied me gender-affirming surgery for years – and keeps raising new excuses and putting new obstacles in my way. I am grateful that the court recognized the urgency of my case and ordered BOP to act.”

“For years, Cristina has fought to receive the health care the Constitution requires. The court’s order makes clear that she needs gender-affirming surgery now and that BOP cannot justify its failure to provide this medically necessary care,” Joshua Blecher-Cohen, an ACLU of Illinois staff attorney who represents Iglesias, said. “We hope this landmark decision will help secure long overdue health care for Cristina – and for the many other transgender people in federal custody who have been denied gender-affirming care.”

According to the ACLU, while the BOP has more than 1,200 transgender people currently in its custody, Iglesias is now expected to be the first federal prisoner to ever receive gender-affirming surgery.

Iglesias has been in federal custody for 28 years and is currently housed in a BOP residential reentry center in Florida, the ACLU said.

When reached for comment, the BOP told CNN it doesn’t comment on “pending litigation or matters subject to legal proceedings,” nor on “the conditions of confinement for any individual or group of inmates.”