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ACLU: Denying Chelsea Manning Hormone Therapy May Violate Constitutional Rights

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In this undated file photo provided by the U.S. Army, Pfc. Bradley Manning poses for a photo wearing a wig and lipstick. (AP Photo/U.S. Army, File)
In this undated file photo provided by the U.S. Army, Pfc. Bradley Manning poses for a photo wearing a wig and lipstick. (AP Photo/U.S. Army, File)

The military policy against providing hormone therapy to prisoners like Chelsea Manning raises "serious constitutional concerns," an American Civil Liberties Union official said Thursday.

Chelsea Manning, who used to be known as Bradley Manning, announced Thursday she wants to live her life as a woman. But under military policy, it may be impossible for her to begin making the transition from behind bars as she serves a sentence in relation to her disclosures to WikiLeaks.

"The Army does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder," Kimberly Lewis, a spokeswoman for the Fort Leavenworth, Kan., military prison where Manning is expected to serve her sentence, told NBC News.

ACLU officials say that policy is problematic.

"In response to Chelsea Manning's disclosure that she is female, has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, and will be seeking hormone therapy as a part of her transition during her incarceration, public statements by military officials that the Army does not provide hormone therapy to treat gender dysphoria raise serious constitutional concerns," Chase Strangio, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, said in a statement.

"Gender dysphoria is a serious medical condition in which a person's gender identity does not correspond to his or her assigned sex at birth, and hormone therapy is part of the accepted standards of care for this condition," Strangio continued. "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."

"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," Strangio said.

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