Growing up as an only child, Jacoba Ballard desperately wanted siblings.
In 2014, at age 35, the Native American woman’s wish came true when she took a 23andMe DNA test and discovered that she had at least seven half brothers and sisters living within a 25-mile radius of her lived.
But Ballard’s lifelong dream of having a large family quickly warped as her half-sibling matches ballooned. Over the next eight years, she found an amazing 94 (and counting) light-haired brothers and sisters — and one man at the root of her sordid family tree. They all shared a father, fertility doctor Donald Cline.
“It’s disgusting,” Ballard, now 43, said in the new Netflix documentary Our Father, out May 11. “It’s almost like we’re like that perfect Aryan clan… Most of us have blonde hair and blue eyes.”
In the film of Taken at Birth, directed by Lucie Jourdan, Ballard and a handful of her siblings theorize that breeding an all-white brood in an effort to preserve the Caucasian race may have been Cline’s motivation for sending hordes of him Wrong to impregnate patients with their own sperm.
“It’s disgusting to sit in bed at night wondering if the person who created you is a racist bigot,” said Ballard of Cline, now 84. He retired in 2009 but carried out his transgressions by its Indianapolis offices continued from the late 1970s and early 80s with no repercussions.
However, in 2016, Cline lied to investigators at the Indiana State Attorney’s Office, claiming he never used his own sperm to fertilize a patient. But later that same year, a paternity test performed by a law enforcement officer with an order to take his DNA sample confirmed a 99.99% chance he was Ballard’s biological father.
Cline didn’t respond to the Post’s request for comment.
“What made him wake up every day and choose to devote himself to his work, masturbate, and unknowingly place it in women without their consent?” Ballard asks in the document. “He could have quit at any time, but he did it over and over again.”
“The best” in the field
In 2017, after it was proven that Cline Ballard fathered, the doctor pleaded guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice for previously lying to officials about artificially inseminating patients with his own specimen. But thanks to an understanding judge and no prior convictions, he didn’t serve jail time and simply paid a $500 fine.
He could not be criminally charged with rape or assault, former Marion County, Indiana prosecutor Tim Delaney explains in the document, because “at the end of the day, there just isn’t a crime that touches on that particular act.” [in the eyes of the law],” he said.
Though Cline reigns as the “most prolific” US doctor unlawfully inseminating patients with his semen, he is not alone. With the growing popularity of home DNA testing kits, another 44 fertility doctors across the country have been exposed for similar misdeeds.
“It was a violation from him to me,” said Diana Kiesler, whose daughter is Julie Cline’s biological child. Little did she know in 1982 that her infertility specialist – then hailed as one of the “best” in the field – had somehow discarded her husband’s sperm sample and used his own to impregnate it.
But years later, when a 23andMe match and DNA test proved her daughter and Ballard were blood relatives and the truth about Cline’s ploy came out, it nearly devastated Kiesler’s family.
“I [told my husband]”Unfortunately, Dr. Cline doesn’t use your sperm, he uses his own. So we’re just finding out that Julie isn’t yours,'” Kiesler recalled. Her devastated spouse howled, “He took everything from me.”
Ballard’s mother, Debbie Pierce, sought Cline’s help to conceive in 1979 after it was discovered that her husband was unable to have children naturally. She allowed the doctor to select what she felt was a suitable donor sample for the insemination procedure.
“He told us he was going to match us with a donor who looks like my husband,” Pierce said. “He wanted to use medical students — their sperm.”
Pierce, along with the nurses and doctors on Cline’s staff, felt that each donor’s sample would only be used a maximum of three times.
This rule should help avoid having too many people sharing bloodlines in a geographic area. But years later, based on Ballard’s initial 23andMe findings, it became clear that the rule had been broken.
“To find out that I have siblings was amazing,” Ballard admitted. “But there are eight of us, what’s going on here?”
After confirming that she and Harmon were half-sisters, the couple bonded with her half-brother, Matt White, via the online biology database.
His mother, Liz, was unknowingly injected with Cline’s sperm 15 times before she finally became pregnant.
“It’s just too fucked up. I just felt sorry for my mother,” White said. “I mean, here she was, this young woman who just wanted to have a family like everyone else.”
In the film, Liz says that when she found out her son shared Cline’s DNA, she felt like, “I was raped 15 times and I didn’t even know it.”
Unfortunately for White, Ballard, and the rest of the clinician’s descendants, they claim the disease runs through Cline’s blood.
“He has an autoimmune disease,” said Jason Hyatt, one of the disgraced doctor’s biological children. In the film, a former friend and colleague of Cline’s, Mark Farber, recalls overhearing that he had had rheumatoid arthritis in his hands since the ’70s.
“For that reason, his sperm wouldn’t even have been approved as a donor,” Hyatt said, citing the extensive health screening that most sperm donors undergo for inherited diseases or deficiencies.
Almost all half-siblings, including Ballard, are affected by chorionic autoimmune diseases. However, via audio of a recorded police interview with Cline in the document, he claimed, “All the inseminations I did with my sample, and it was economical again, had a healthy baby.”
Allison Kramer, 47, who also has health issues, has taken a long time to accept that she and her twin sister are Cline’s children.
Even after taking a 23andMe DNA test and being matched as Ballard’s half-sibling, Kramer couldn’t bring himself to believe that she wasn’t the biological daughter of the man she was raised by, who was her father, Cline’s sidekick colour.
It wasn’t until she saw her half-siblings share their stories on an episode of “Dr. Phil” in December 2019 that she could finally accept the truth.
But tragically, Cline’s wrongdoing felt even more personal to Kramer.
“Don Cline was also my fertility doctor,” she tearfully admits to the camera. “He was my main gynecologist … He did my Pap exams, he did breast exams.”
“I don’t think a grown woman would want someone close to her, a member of the opposite sex, to touch her in that way,” she adds.
And while Cline’s sins have so far gone legally unpunished, Ballard refuses to rest until justice is done.
“Instead of destroying, you made me see my self worth,” she says of the doctor in the film. “And you also made it clear to me what my goal is.”
With the help of her newfound family members and their mothers, Ballard worked to successfully pass legislation in Indiana making illegal donor insemination illegal. There is no federal law against it.
“I’m a fighter,” Ballard says in the document. “And I will fight for every sibling I have that I know that I don’t know and for every woman you’ve attacked. And I will do that until the damn day I die.”