"Our Father": the 5 creepiest moments from Netflix's harrowing fertility fraud documentary

For years, Dr. Donald Cline got away with using his own sperm to inseminate his patients without their consent

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer

Published May 11, 2022 9:39PM (EDT)

Keith Boyle as Dr. Donald Cline in "Our Father" (Netflix)
Keith Boyle as Dr. Donald Cline in "Our Father" (Netflix)

Netflix's latest documentary feature "Our Father" is an intricate real-life horror tale about fertility fraud that manages to grow more unsettling by the minute.  

The harrowing investigation focuses on the misdeeds of disgraced fertility doctor Dr. Donald Cline, who artificially inseminated his own sperm into his female patients, without their knowledge or consent. During the 1980s, Cline was hailed as one of the best fertility doctors in Indianapolis, praised for his medical expertise and his endearing promise to give countless parents the gift of a child. The doctor's motives, however, proved to be more vile in nature after it was revealed that he had fathered 94 children and counting, all of whom are half-siblings.  

RELATED: HBO's unflinching "Baby God" corrects pop culture's tendency to treat fertility fraud lightly

One of Cline's children, Jacoba Ballard, uncovered the truth when she grew suspicious of the doctor after taking a 23AndMe DNA test in search of possible half-siblings. At first there were just five siblings, which soon grew to 10, then 15 and finally, over 50 individuals. The documentary features just a handful of Ballard's half-siblings, including Julie Harmon (No. 14), Matt White (No. 17), Heather Woock (No. 22), Lisa Shepherd-Stidham (No. 33), Jason Hyatt (No. 48), Carrie Foster (No. 53) and Alison Kramer (No. 61).

The identities of all 90-plus children still remain a mystery — "Our Father" ends on a solemn note with Fox59 reporter Angela Ganote, who first covered the story, asking women who have consulted Dr. Cline in the past to urge their children to take a DNA test.

From Cline's disturbing insemination process to his possible ties with the Quiverfull movement, here are five horrifying revelations from the documentary:

1 The creepy first meeting between Cline and his "children"

When Ballard realized that her biological father was Cline, she consulted both Doug and Donna — two of the four children Cline had with his wife — to arrange a group meeting with their father and fellow half-siblings. 

Ballard recalled the intensity of Cline's footsteps and the sound of his cane hitting the floor, which were menacing and foreboding. She said the doctor showed no visible emotion during the meeting and managed to stay calm and composed in the face of his children. The doctor also carried with him a gun, which Ballard claimed was an intimidation tactic. 

She then said that Cline introduced himself and asked his children, who were all seated at a table, to each share their name, age and profession. "It was almost like he was ranking us," Ballard stated. "Like, 'Let me see which one of my offspring made it to the top.' I felt like we were being judged."

Ballard noted that some of her half-siblings suffered from auto-immune disorders, so she asked Cline for his detailed medical history. The doctor, however, dismissed her request and asserted that there was nothing to worry about. 

Things quickly became heated when Cline offered Ballard a piece of paper that contained scripture from Jeremiah 1:5 to help her cope with the news. She declined the so-called "gift," angrily telling Cline, "You're not gonna use my God to justify your actions."

When asked why he used his own sperm in his patients, Cline said he was only trying to help desperate mothers and families. He then reassured his children that there were only 15 siblings in total, no more than that. 

2 Liz White's story

White, the mother of Ballard's fellow half-sibling Matt White, visited Cline's office frequently when she was trying for a child despite her struggles with infertility. White noted that Cline was always alone in his office, whether it was during the weekend or during the week or during midday or late evening. She would wait in one room, where she undressed and prepared for her appointment in private, while Cline went to his office to gather her donor sperm samples — or so she thought. Years later, White learned that Cline spent that time masturbating and placing his own sperm into a syringe, which was then inserted into White during her procedure. 

"When Matt's DNA test came back, my first words were, 'I was raped 15 times and didn't even know it,'" she said tearfully.

3 Cline's alleged threats and secret attacks

As Cline's story garnered increased attention from local news outlets, the doctor grew fearful of losing his marriage and tainting his relationship with the church, thus prompting him to threaten and harass his children over the phone. They also suspected Cline of committing a slew of strange attacks, even though they never caught him in the act.

In one instance, the lug nuts from all four tires of Ballard's car were removed and missing. In another, Harmon's computer was hacked and her files and emails on Cline were erased. And for Woock, the designated 22nd sibling received harassing phone calls from the cemetery, asking her if she wanted to purchase a plot for her to be buried in.  

"I think it was to rattle me. To re-traumatize me so that I would be quiet," Woock claimed. "I don't think he wanted any of us to talk publicly if he could help it."

4 Cline's obsession with a higher calling

Cline grew increasingly religious following a brutal car accident, in which he ran over and killed a young girl. According to Ballard, that moment encouraged Cline to change his life and devote himself entirely to God. 

"Maybe he thought that this was his way of giving back, that he took a life that really wasn't his fault," said Mark Farber, Cline's former colleague, of the doctor's medical crimes. "Now, he was going to give back. Maybe that was a psychological process going through his mind. But it doesn't really matter because that should not have been a way that he was trying to make amends."

Cline's office was also littered with Christian sayings, such as, "If you want to get to Heaven, you need to be Christian." The doctor also served as an elder of the Church and hosted baptisms at his home swimming pool.  

5 Cline's possible ties to the Quiverfull movement

Many of Cline's children also believed he was part of the Quiverfull movement, a fundamentalist subculture of conservative Christians who denounce contraception, abortion and sterilization but laud widespread procreation. The Duggars, of TLC show "19 Kids and Counting" fame, is probably the most well-known family that follows a Quiverfull-like lifestyle.

The children first suspected the doctor's affiliation after Ballard received an email from an unnamed individual with a Quiverfull domain name. They also found that the Quiverfull website heavily quoted Jeremiah 1:5, which says "Before I formed you in your mother's womb, I knew you." The scripture, which is found at the opening of the documentary, was also found in Cline's office and previously given to Ballard when they first met in person.

Additionally, it is believed that the Quiverfull movement advocates for more white children to help uphold white supremacy ideals and preserve the white race over others. In an emotional moment from the documentary, the children acknowledge their glaring Aryan-like similarities — they are all white and have both blonde hair and blue eyes.  

"Our Father" is currently streaming on Netflix. Watch a trailer for it below, via YouTube.

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By Joy Saha

Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon, covering Culture and Food. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.


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