Our Father, a new Netflix documentary, tells the disturbing tale of Dr. Donald Cline, a fertility doctor who was discovered to have artificially inseminated dozens of women without their consent.
The film depicts the discovery of Cline’s illicit activities, with Jacoba Ballard recalling how, despite being an only child, she took a DNA test and discovered that she had multiple half-siblings. She was the first of over 90 people (and counting) to discover that they were also Cline’s biological children. (Parts of the story are reenacted in the documentary, with actor Keith Boyle portraying Cline.)
The film left many viewers wondering what happened to the doctor who sexually abused his patients for over a decade (at least, that is the confirmed time frame). What repercussions did Dr. Cline face, and where is he now? The answer, unfortunately, is as shocking as the documentary itself.
Was Dr. Cline Brought to Justice for His Crimes?
Cline is believed to have inseminated women with his own sperm until 1986, when he closed his practise. He informed his patients that the anonymous sperm donors were medical residents and that no donor’s sperm was used more than three times.
Only through DNA testing records did Cline’s biological children discover that he had used his own sperm. According to the documentary, when six of the half-siblings confronted Cline, he admitted to using his own sperm and stated that their parents’ records had been destroyed.
Cline was never charged with rape, despite the victims’ and children’s persistent pleas for justice. As a lawyer explains in the documentary, it would have been extremely difficult to charge Cline with rape, both because Indiana lacked a law defining what he did as a sexual violation and because he was a prominent fertility doctor in Indianapolis during his career.
This is despite the fact that the victims interviewed for the documentary stated that they would never have consented to him being the sperm donor and that they felt violated by his actions. Experts concurred, noting that Cline would have had to engage in masturbation nearby while the women waited for insemination, and that he could have been experiencing the aftereffects of arousal during the appointment.
In 2016, Cline was charged with two counts of felony obstruction of justice: for lying to the attorney general’s office about using his sperm on two victims and for threatening to sue Ballard for “slander and libel.” According to The Atlantic, after pleading guilty, he received one year of probation, a $500 fine, and the loss of his medical licence (though he had retired in 2009). (opens in new tab). According to Fox59, Cline has settled with his victims and their families for more than $1.3 million.
Where is Donald Cline Currently?
When the 2019 article on Cline was published in The Atlantic, he was in his eighties and still living in his hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana. He maintained a low profile while maintaining a large number of community supporters. Several of Cline’s children also reside in Indianapolis, with some of them residing within a few blocks of their biological father.
No one knows for certain why he committed his actions. Numerous Christian sayings decorate Cline’s office, and he is an elder at his church, as indicated by the documentary. He also frequently quoted Jeremiah 1:5, which states, “Before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I knew you.” Additionally, he has ties to the Christian movement Quiverfull, which promotes having as many children as possible.
In an interview with Fox59, his former church responded to the Netflix documentary by claiming that Cline had admitted to them that he had been unethical, but that they were unaware of the scope of his deceit. “If they had known then what they know now, they would have removed Cline from his position of authority within the church,” Fox59 reported. Reportedly, Cline has since joined a different church.
Did the Law Change After Dr. Cline’s Actions Were Discovered?
In 2019, Indiana passed a state law in response to Cline’s actions, with the assistance of several of his victims and biological children. The fertility fraud law makes it illegal for fertility doctors to use their own sperm without their patient’s consent and permits the doctor’s victims, their spouses, and their children to file a lawsuit in civil court.
Unfortunately, Cline is one of a number of doctors who were discovered to have used their own sperm on multiple patients over the past few years. (HBO’s Baby God(opens in a new tab) is another documentary on a similar case in Nevada.) There is currently no federal law that would criminalise these doctors’ illegal inseminations.