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Warning: Spoilers ahead! Stop reading here if you don't want to know what happens in Our Father.
Netflix's latest true crime documentary Our Father unpacks the chilling case of Dr. Donald Cline. The former fertility doctor secretly fathered dozens of his patients' children for years—and wasn't caught until decades later.
Eventually, one of those children named Jacoba Ballard took a DNA test and found seven matches. Jacoba would go on to find almost a hundred other half-siblings, all related to Cline. The final count "defied best practices in fertility medicine," according to Netflix's synopsis of the film.
Cline, once a revered member of the local community, was now the center of a massive investigation led by Jacoba. But as the documentary explains, it was difficult to try to charge or prosecute Cline for his actions.
While the resulting legal action against Cline didn't bring Jacoba all of the closure she was looking for, she's not giving up any time soon. So, where is Cline today? Here's everything you need to know:
Cline opened his fertility clinic in 1979.
After graduating from Indiana University's medical school and serving in the United States Air Force, Cline's fertility clinic opened its doors in 1979, Indianapolis Monthly reported. He settled in Indiana with his wife Audrey and their sons, Donna and Doug.
At first, Cline denied all the accusations. “We used fresh samples collected approximately one hour prior to the insemination,” he wrote to one of Jacoba's half-siblings.
“I matched the blood type of the donor to that of my patient’s husband and also his general physical characteristics. I almost always used resident physicians and most were married with children of their own. Also, their family history was entirely negative for any familial illnesses. This many years later, I could not possibly remember anything else.”
Jacoba began her investigation in 2014.
She first stumbled across seven of her half-siblings on the website 23andMe. "It was a sick feeling," Jacoba tells Women's Health of finding more relatives. "One, you're having to relive the whole thing. And two, it's almost like you know that you're ruining their life, and then you're going to turn around and be [the] support to help them rebuild it."
Jacoba decided to file a report with the Indiana Attorney General's office, according to Indianapolis Monthly. She and one of her newly-found half-sisters went through interviews and spoke with a grand jury.
The office then sent Cline two letters in 2015 informing him that he was under investigation. “I can emphatically say that at no time did I ever use my own sample for insemination," he responded.
"It's so messed up," Jacoba tells WH. "That's all I could keep thinking about was my mom was laying there, 20 years old, and this man who was the age of my grandparents took advantage of her. And, I don't know, that time, I just, I said, 'I bet there's hundreds of us.' And I wanted everyone in the state of Indiana that had ever went to him to be aware and to know."
So, she went to the press. Fox 59 reporter Angela Ganote broke Cline's story and sent his case to the Marion County prosecutor's office. But at the time, fertility fraud was not a crime under either federal or state law, per Indianapolis Monthly.
In 2017, Cline was convicted of obstruction.
As the documentary notes, Cline was eventually charged of obstructing the state attorney general's investigation into his actions in 2017. He received no jail time—instead, a judge suspended his sentence and made him pay a $500 fine, plus $185 worth of court costs.
“It was always about you,” Jacoba said at Cline's obstruction hearing, Indianapolis Monthly reported. “You lied. You still lie. You even have your family believing you, and that sickens me.”
Cline continued to practice medicine until 2009, when he officially retired. Then, in 2018, he surrendered his medical license to the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana, according to IndyStar. The board also voted to prevent Cline from ever applying to have his license reinstated in the future.
“It’s particularly egregious,” Laura Iosue, supervising deputy attorney general, said at the time. “The important thing is that Dr. Cline doesn’t practice anymore.”
Now, an Indiana law makes Cline's actions illegal.
In 2019, the Governor of Indiana signed the first U.S. law that prohibits fertility fraud, per The Atlantic. Specifically, the law criminalizes the misrepresentation of a medical procedure, device, or drug.
It also directly references human reproductive material, according to Pew. Any violations are felonies, and plaintiffs may also be awarded damages in court. And a similar law has since been passed in Texas.
"While we would love for there to be something at a national level, it is nice to see it kind of trickling across the nation," one of Jacoba's half-sisters, Heather Woock, tells Women's Health.
Today, Cline keeps a low profile. His current location is unknown, per Distractify.
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