Dr. Don Cline, an Indianapolis, Indiana fertility doctor accused of artificially inseminating dozens of women without their consent, avoided prison time and is now living in retirement. Cline was the Indiana doctor featured on the 2022 Netflix documentary, “Our Father.”
The story behind Cline’s fertility practice came to light when one of his biological children, Jacoba Ballard, took a 23andMe test in 2014, according to the Netflix documentary. She learned she had seven half-siblings. She contacted the siblings to learn about their mysterious familial connection, and realized each of the mothers had seen the same fertility doctor.
As many more siblings began taking DNA tests, their information was added to the database and the number of siblings in the count grew. Each time a new connection was added to the database, Ballard prepared to break the news, she said on the documentary.
Here’s what you need to know:
Cline Faced Trial for Obstruction of Justice, Accused of Lying During the Investigation
Cline’s former patients said on the documentary that inseminating them without their knowledge or consent was equivalent to rape. But the criminal justice system did not provide a path toward sexual assault charges, the documentary shows.
The investigation began in 2015 when Cline was living in retirement in Indianapolis, Indiana. Former patients contacted the Marion County prosecutor and attorney general of Indiana.
“I was raped 15 times and didn’t even know it,” former patient Liz White said on the documentary. “There was no consent. He didn’t give me a choice.”
Tim Delaney, who was working in the prosecutor’s office in 2015, said on the documentary that the actions were sexual violations, but they did not fit the legal definition of rape.
“I don’t deny that it was a sexual violation, [but] ‘Dr. Cline committed rape,’ is a legal assertion that was not true, and I wasn’t going to put it on paper with my signature,” Delaney said. “The individuals touched by this were very emotional and had a feeling I [was there] to deliver catharsis. I wasn’t.”
Cline faced trial in 2017 for two felony counts of obstruction of justice, accused of lying during the investigation. Cline pleaded guilty to the charges and received two suspended sentences, meaning he was not sentenced to serve any time in prison. He was also fined $500 and lost his medical license. He had retired in 2009.
The Investigation Prompted a New Indiana Law Making Fertility Fraud a Crime & a Similar Case Occurred in Texas
The investigation into Cline resulted in a law that specifically criminalizes fertility fraud. The bill was signed into law by the Governor of Indiana in 2019. The law provides recourse for a patient to press charges against anyone who uses their own genetic material in fertility treatment without the patient’s written consent.
The law says any woman, spouse of child “may bring an action against a health care provider who knowingly or intentionally treated the woman for infertility by using the health care provider’s own spermatozoon or ovum, without the patient’s informed written consent to treatment using the spermatozoon or ovum.”
A similar law was passed in Texas followed a similar case involving a Texas family, according to the Texas Tribune. Eve Wiley’s mother was also artificially inseminated by her fertility doctor without her consent, the newspaper reported.
“My mother’s fertility doctor choose to use his own sperm instead of the sperm donor my parents consented to and selected,” Wiley said in a House Criminal Jurisprudence committee hearing covered by the Tribune. “And he is my biological father, and it is not a crime in the state of Texas.”