Where the 94 (and Counting) Half-Siblings from Our Father Are Now

The Netflix doc sheds a light on fertility doctor Donald Cline's implanting of his own sperm in his patients without their consent for over a decade.
IMAGE NETFLIX

23andMe, the most well-known company that offers at-home DNA testing kits for individuals, launched in the United States in 2007. Sales peaked around the holidays in 2017 and 2018, and by 2020, 30 million people globally had taken a DNA test.

In the 1970s and ‘80s, when fertility doctor Donald Cline of Indianapolis was swapping out donor sperm without the consent of his patients and instead implanting his own fresh personal supply into them, he likely could not have anticipated the above statistic. But when Jacoba Ballard, who knew she’d been conceived via donor sperm, set out in 2014 to look into her own ancestry, she accidentally stumbled into his dark, deep secret—and 94 and counting of her own half-siblings, also fathered by their mother’s fertility doctor. Even now, eight years later, she is still discovering new half-siblings regularly. “We actually had a new sibling pop up the day the trailer dropped,” she told The Guardian, regarding Netflix’s new documentary Our Father, now streaming, which outlines the entire shocking tale. “Every time we get a new match I give them this news, and it’s like I’m ruining their life.”

Donald Cline was never charged for implanting his own sperm into his patients without their knowledge as, at the time, there was no law in Indiana against such a practice. He did, however, lie to the attorney general’s office when they inquired about his activities, and for that, he was charged with two counts of felony obstruction of justice in 2016. He was fined $500, sentenced to a year of probation, and lost his medical license, although he’d already been retired for nearly a decade. At the time of Cline's December 2017 trial, there were only 22 known half-siblings that he had fathered.

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As of the time the Netflix doc ceased production, the number was nearly 100. Many live in the same town, go to the same places, and have children that attend school together. “Did you not consider we all live in a relatively close area?” one daughter said. “Did you really think…that we wouldn’t meet? That we wouldn’t maybe date? That we wouldn’t have kids who might date? Did you never consider that?” In addition to Jacoba Ballard, Our Father features half-siblings Julie Harmon, Matt White, Heather Woock, Lisa Shepherd-Stidham, Jason Hyatt, Carrie Foster, and Alison Kramer, who all share their own stories of discovering their true paternity. Season One of NPR’s podcast Sick features Ballard, Woock, and Foster, who share their experiences.

According to a feature in The Atlantic from 2019, the half-siblings have annual picnics on Father’s Day. They are also responsible for championing a bill in Indiana that makes misrepresentation in a medical procedure a felony, which was signed into law in May of 2019, making Indiana the first state to criminalize fertility doctors using their own sperm without patient consent.

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Lauren Kranc
Lauren Kranc is an editorial assistant at Esquire, where she covers pop culture and television, with entirely too narrow of an expertise on Netflix dating shows.
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