DNA test terrors. Netflix’s latest true crime documentary, Our Father, tells the story of how Donald Cline — formerly one of the most renowned fertility experts in Indiana — used his own sperm to inseminate dozens of women without their consent or knowledge.
“The majority of us live in a 25-mile radius of each other,” said one of the siblings who was conceived via Donald’s sperm, Jacoba Ballard, in the documentary’s trailer. “I walk around, and I can be related to everyone. I dread every new match that comes, but they just keep coming.”
Alongside the release of Our Father on Netflix, scroll through to see what you should know about Jacoba, Donald and other details from the chilling story.
Is ‘Our Father’ a True Story?
The documentary is indeed a true story and an unsettling one at that.
Who Are the People Featured in the Documentary?
The story starts with Ballard, who knew her whole life that she was conceived via sperm donation. The other characters include Ballard’s half-siblings — more than 50 people in total — who discovered that they were all paternally related through Cline, a former Indianapolis fertility doctor.
“After a woman’s at-home DNA test reveals multiple half-siblings, she discovers a shocking scheme involving donor sperm and a popular fertility doctor,” reads Netflix’s synopsis for the documentary.
Also featured in the film are insights from an Indiana University professor who specializes in reproductive medicine and bioethics, Jody Madeira. She gave testimony in a 2019 trial Madeira over a bill that would’ve made Cline’s abuse a Level 6 felony.
Other characters include local Indianapolis news anchor Angela Ganote, whose reporting led to Cline’s criminal investigation, Indiana prosecutor Tim DeLane and Dr. Robert Colver, Cline’s onetime medical partner.
Where Did the Events Take Place?
The events depicted in Our Father took place in the small Indiana town of Indianapolis. There, the former fertility doctor was praised for helping aspiring parents start their families.
How Did Donald Cline’s Children Find Out They Were His?
With the use of at-home DNA kits like 23andMe, Ballard and her more than 50 half-siblings discovered they were related. Ballard was the first to piece the story together, according to a 2019 Atlantic article. She explained in the deep dive that she first found her first half-sister on an online forum for donor-conceived children, where they bonded because both of their parents worked with Cline. After Ballard looked the woman up on Facebook, she was shocked by how similar they looked. This led Ballard and her half-sister to get at-home DNA kits, which revealed not only that they were related but they also shared even more siblings.
The documentary’s trailer showed that Ballard was not alone, with some of Cline’s other children saying that they also learned about him through DNA kits. “When I opened up Ancestry, I had over 3,000 hits,” one sibling explained. “All of these random names were popping up, and it said ‘Close Family,’” another said.
When Does ‘Our Father’ Come Out?
The movie is available to stream on Netflix starting May 11, 2020.
What Happened to Donald Cline?
After Cline was charged with two counts of felony obstruction of justice in 2016, he pleaded guilty to the charges in 2017 and was sentenced to a suspended one-year sentence, which meant no prison time. Cline, who already retired, also lost his medical license and was fined $500.