Women sired by Indiana fertility doctor say Netflix outed them in 'Our Father' documentary

Posted at 3:55 PM, May 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-23 16:47:03-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Two women from Marion County are suing Netflix and the creators of the "Our Father" documentary claiming it revealed that they were among more than 90 half-siblings sired by a Zionsville fertility doctor who used his own sperm to impregnate patients.

In separate lawsuits filed Saturday in Marion Superior Court, the women claim Netflix and Blumhouse Productions used their names without their permission, outing them to the millions who have watched the documentary and its promotional trailer through the streaming service and social media platforms.

The women, who are given pseudonyms in the lawsuits, both learned in 2019 that they were among more than 90 children fathered by Dr. Donald Cline. In 2017, Cline pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and admitted that he inseminated patients using his semen without their knowledge in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Cline, who was 79 at the time of his conviction, was handed a one-year suspended sentence and served no jail time.

The "Our Father" documentary tells how Jacoba Ballard and others exposed Cline after learning they were Cline's biological children through an at-home DNA test.

The documentary was released May 11 and viewed by millions of people in that month alone, according to the lawsuits. One woman says her name is shown in a clip in the documentary and the promotional trailer. The other woman claims the documentary and trailer use her name and photograph.

In their lawsuits, both women say the fact that Cline was their biological father was a closely held secret. They claim Netflix and Blumhouse Productions broke a written pledge to not identify any siblings who did not give them permission.

"The Photo Usage Pledge was false and misleading," attorneys for the women say in the lawsuits. "Defendants stated in writing to plaintiff that they would 'respect the privacy' of the secret children and described with specificity how they would utilize plaintiff’s tendered assorted photos. Defendants did not comply with their description. Instead, they identified plaintiff to the world as a secret child by name."

The producers blurred the names and images of other people sired by Cline but did not do so for these women, the lawsuits say.

The suits are seeking monetary damages and that the women's names and pictures be removed from the documentary and trailers.

WRTV has reached out to Netflix and Blumhouse Production seeking comment.

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Dr. Donald Cline.

More: Victims hopeful new law will protect against fertility fraud | Fertility doctor gets no jail time for lying about using his own sperm | 6 questions with star of documentary on fertility doc who inseminated patients with his sperm | Netflix documentary "Our Father" unravels twisted story of Zionsville fertility doctor

Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at victor.ryckaert@wrtv.com or on Twitter: @vicryc.