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‘Our Father’ on Netflix: Where is Donald Cline and all your questions answered


Our Father is unavoidable. The horrifying documentary focuses on Donald Cline, a fertility doctor who secretly used his own sperm to inseminate dozens of patients in Indianapolis in the 70s and 80s and how his actions turned the lives of his biological children upside down.

The caption of the tweet pretty much nailed down.

Our Father hit Netflix on May 11, full of twists, emotionally heartbreaking interviews, and re-enactments that were more entertaining than I expected. (Still, I watched intently throughout its 97-minute runtime.)

The film interviews several of Cline’s genetically related children, including Jacoba Ballard, who took a home DNA test as an adult and found she had seven half-siblings. She is introduced quite early and over the course of the film the number of siblings increases. At the end, it is revealed that there are at least 94 Cline siblings. Cline was not involved in the documentary nor interviewed for it.

Lucie Jourdan makes her documentary directorial debut with the film, which comes from Netflix and Blumhouse Pictures. Here are the answers to the main questions I had after watching Our Father.

Warning: If you haven’t seen the documentary, this article contains spoilers and material that may be upsetting.

Have other fertility doctors inseminated patients without their knowledge?

Unfortunately yes. In a statement, Our Father director Lucie Jourdan wrote that there are at least 44 additional male doctors around the world who have done the same thing as Cline.

“No consent. No respect,” she wrote. “Through accessible DNA testing, these perpetrators are finally being caught and exposed, and forced into the spotlight they never imagined.”

Another documentary, HBO’s Baby God, tells the story of one such doctor. Las Vegas-based fertility specialist Quincy Fortier also used his own sperm to inseminate unsuspecting women and may have fathered hundreds of children. If you can stomach another story about a rogue fertility doctor, the 2020 film is streaming on HBO Max.

Is Donald Cline still a fertility doctor?

Cline worked as a fertility doctor in Indianapolis for 38 years before retiring in 2009.

Where is Donald Cline now?

Cline was charged with two counts of obstruction of justice in 2017 after lying to investigators at the Indiana Attorney General’s office (Netflix documentary reveals he denied ever using his own semen in legal documents ), but he was not imprisoned. At the time, Indiana law did not specifically prohibit fertility doctors from using their own sperm. The Medical Licensing Board of Indiana revoked his license in 2018.

Cline is currently alive and is over 80 years old. Jourdan told the Guardian that “he’s active in his community. He goes to his grandkids’ swim meets and things like that. There’s no hiding.”

Why did Cline do it?

It’s a big problem, and the documentary doesn’t provide a definitive answer. Here’s what we know.

In the documentary, Ballard recounts a meeting between Cline and some of the siblings, where Cline apparently explained that he only used his own sperm to help mothers he thought were desperate to have a child, according to Ballard.

Children have other theories.

What is Quiverfull?

Quiverfull is an ultra-conservative Christian movement mentioned in the film. Those in Quiverfull reject birth control and believe they can help spread the word of God by having as many children as possible. In 2009, NPR reported that Quiverfull was “a small group, probably 10,000 fast-growing families, mostly in the Midwest and South”.

In Our Father, Ballard establishes a connection between Cline and Quiverfull, but it is not a strong connection.

We learn in the film that Cline has an affinity for the Bible verse “Jeremiah 1:5”, and Ballard notes that it is “one of the Bible verses Quiverfull uses”. The verse is: “Before I formed you in my mother’s womb, I knew you.”

Cline’s sister, Julie Harmon, makes another wild connection, saying Quiverfull, at the time the siblings were conceived, was focused on producing more members of the white race. “They were afraid that other races would infiltrate and that the white race would eventually disappear,” she says. Then we hear from Ballard, who points out that most biological Cline children have blonde hair and blue eyes. “It’s almost like we’re this perfect Aryan clan,” she says. Again, there’s nothing super concrete here to tie Cline to Quiverfull.

The film also shows Ballard explaining how she discovered the Quiverfull move. She says the Indiana Attorney General’s office sent her emails, she tracked down the people who responded and everyone copied the emails, and through that she discovered that “the ‘one of the people in the state’ had a ‘Quiverfull’ email address. Since this isn’t really about Cline, I’m quite confused (and I suspect others will be too) as to why the document includes these details prominently.

The siblings recognize that without hearing the truth from Cline, they only have theories. “I don’t think we’ll ever know why he was doing that,” Ballard said.

Was it sexual?

Brother Jason Hyatt also speculated on Cline’s motive: “Is it to advance his career? … Is it some kind of sexual thing? I don’t know,” he says in the film. “I have a feeling he’s hiding something more sinister.”

So was it sexual? It is implied in the document that Cline collected his own semen just before inseminating patients. Jody Madeira, a law professor at Indiana University, notes in the film that “in order for him to produce this semen sample, he had to masturbate in the immediate vicinity of the office where a patient was waiting.” In a voiceover near the end, “Donald” says, “Was there a sexual connotation? Absolutely not.” It is unknown if Cline is actually the one speaking in the recording. (An actor for Cline is used in other parts of the film to recreate scenes).

How did Cline secretly use his own sperm so many times?

Brother Matt White suggests in the film that someone must have known that Cline was inseminating women with his own sperm. “To get away with it for decades and nobody knew anything. Nobody in the office? Come on,” he says. Robert Colver, Cline’s former partner at work, and Jan Shore, his former nurse, deny knowledge of Cline’s actions. Shore worked with Cline for 13 years.



CNET

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