This Is The Most Disturbing Part Of Netflix’s Our Father

Photo Courtesy of Netflix.
There are many nauseating moments in Our Father, Netflix’s latest true crime documentary. In fact, its 90-minute duration serves wave after wave of horror. First there is Jacoba Ballard's grisly discovery that she was secretly fathered by her mother’s fertility doctor, who impregnated patients without their knowledge or consent throughout the 1980s. Then there is the sheer scale of his atrocities – to this day, Ballard has 94 half-siblings and counting. Then there’s the horrifying motive behind his crimes. But arguably the most disturbing revelation of all is the knowledge that what he did was not technically illegal at the time the events took place.
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"What made him go to work every day, masturbate and place it inside women unknowingly without their consent?" Ballard asks us viewers at home, visibly repelled by the words coming out of her month. The 'him' in question is Donald Cline, a prominent Indianapolis fertility expert and respected member of the community and church (which the documentary hammers home again and again) to whom all the evidence pointed when Ballard made her horrifying discovery back in 2014. 
Ballard was an only child conceived via sperm donor. She had always been curious as to whether she had any long-lost siblings so she signed up for 23andMe, a DNA-testing, ancestry-mapping service. She expected maybe three potential hits to come back – the doctor had informed her mother that they only ever used one donor a maximum of three times, for obvious reasons – so why was she alerted to 10 siblings and 3,000 'close family' hits within a small radius? It was at that point she made the horrifying discovery that Cline was the common denominator, and the more she delved into it, the more nightmarish the truth. 
Turns out, for decades in his clinic Cline had been destroying whatever samples he had promised, from donors and husbands alike. Then while the women were vulnerable – feet in stirrups, naked from the waist down – he would be masturbating in the room next door, later inserting his own semen into them.
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Then there is the motive. It transpires that Cline was an elder of the church and somewhat of a religious fanatic, likely motivated by cult-like and white supremacist beliefs that celebrated individuals playing god and reproducing as many times as possible.
Photo Courtesy of Netflix.
It gets worse. There is also the realisation that many of the siblings have been living within a 25-mile radius of each other, leading to the understandable fear that some may have accidentally coupled up over the years. The Netflix documentary speaks to distraught fathers and the psychological impact of finding out, decades later, that they aren't the biological parent of their child. And then there’s the fact that many of the siblings share debilitating autoimmune diseases inherited from Cline; genetic disorders that would have certainly been flagged in an actual approved donor and likely rejected. There are so many ways in which Cline violated the trust of those in his care. 
"I was raped 15 times and didn’t even know it," one of the deceived mothers tells the camera. It’s the first time the word is used in the documentary, although there’s no doubt that this physical violation is exactly what Cline did. And the documentary makes plain the frustratingly flawed judicial system that offered no protection for vulnerable patients, as well as its reluctance to class what Cline did as sexual violation at all. Following investigations and a court hearing, Cline was eventually given a one-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice, meaning he was never punished for the crimes committed, only for denying that he committed them at all.
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In 2018 the mothers and daughters successfully passed legislation in Indiana, making illicit donor inseminations illegal. The documentary highlights that, shockingly, there is currently no federal law preventing it in the US — likely because of the supposedly rare and unlikely circumstances of this case. But at the end of the documentary comes this revelation: "Thanks to at-home DNA testing, 44 additional doctors have been found to have used their own sperm to inseminate fertility patients." It is a sickeningly high statistic that raises the question of how many more cases are out there.
One such disturbing case in Australia was alleged to involve Dr Norman ‘Tony’ Walker. When she was in her 40s, Fiona Darroch did a genetic test that suggested that she could have as many as 200-300 half-siblings around the world.
There’s no ignoring the timing of Our Father’s release just as women's legal reproductive rights in the United States have taken a devastating blow. At the end of the day, there is no doubt that the freedom to control one's body is intrinsic to controlling one's life. The documentary may feel like it is recalling an extreme story of decades ago but it plays into the same oppressive power structures that restrict women now and allow the grip exercised by men on women’s bodies to tighten ever further.
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