In 2014, Indiana resident Jacoba Ballard faced a shocking truth about her paternal origin that rocked the foundation of her entire life. She found out that Dr. Donald Cline, who had treated her mother for infertility issues more than three decades ago, could possibly be her biological father. As she set out to uncover more, Jacoba discovered that she was not the only one related to him that way.
Jacoba’s fight to expose Dr. Cline’s harrowing actions and seek justice for dozens like her has been elaborately chronicled in Netflix’s hard-hitting true-crime documentary ‘Our Father.’ But now, let’s find out more about the case and how Jacoba is doing presently in her life.
Who is Jacoba Ballard?
Born on August 26, 1980, Jacoba Ballard knew since the age of 10 that her mother Deborah Pierce AKA Debbie had conceived her through a sperm donor. After living a major part of her life with this reality, she finally decided to find out more about her ancestry in 2014. Jacoba, who was 34-year-old at the time, administered a home DNA test and started searching on a genomics and biotech website that enables users to trace their family history. While she did not expect to find out about her biological father, Jacoba did hope to find and connect with any possible half-siblings.
To Jacoba’s surprise, she did not find one but seven half-siblings on the site, whose birth dates were spread over seven years. She then asked Debbie for further details and learned that the latter had visited Dr. Donald Cline, a renowned local fertility specialist, in Fall 1979. Jacoba got further confused when all the other seven half-siblings also shared about them being conceived through sperm donors from Dr. Cline’s clinic. She began reaching out to all her half-siblings, and through an online registry for donor offspring, she met one named Kristy Killion.
Jacoba and Kristy filed complaints at the Indiana Attorney General’s (AG) office and were subsequently questioned on the matter. In January 2015, Cline was sent two letters to address the complaints and was asked to respond within a fortnight. However, he refuted the claims of the women and stated that he only employed medical residents as donors, and each one was only used for three successful pregnancies. Moreover, Cline further claimed that he used fresh sperm samples from 1971 to 1981 and later shifted to frozen samples from a laboratory.
Not just that, Cline claimed that he discarded all the patient files after seven years as per standard protocol. While the AG’s probe continued, Jacoba and Kristy started gathering evidence on their own. They began curating a family tree of all the half-siblings who were gradually surfacing and discovered that all of them were related to Dr. Cline’s relatives. They zeroed down upon Sylvia, his first cousin, and deduced that either he had used his own sperm or that of a family member.
In the meantime, one of the half-siblings contacted reporter Angela Ganote of Fox59 and shared her story using the name “Carrie.’ The latter did not mention him, but after her report got published, more half-siblings fathered by the doctor began turning up. Angela also reported the case to the Marion County Prosecutor’s office for further action. Jacoba and Kristy reached out to Doug and Donna — Cline’s kids with his wife Audrey — who shared he had confessed to having donated his own samples to the sperm bank. Although, he insisted that it was merely eight times and given to the laboratory.
When the AG’s investigations revealed that the lab had no records of the doctor, Doug confronted his father again to realize that there were more donor offspring than eight. Furthermore, Jacoba called Cline and recorded the conversation as evidence. He allegedly tried using religious verses as a way to convince her of his remorse, but she refused to believe him. In early 2016, Jacoba, Kristy, and four other half-siblings met Dr. Cline for the first time. He then divulged that he had used his semen sample around 50 times but justified his actions by stating that it was to help mothers who wanted children.
Despite the collective anguish of all the mothers who felt violated by Cline as well as the donor offspring whose lives turned upside down, he was not charged with sexual assault and battery as there were no laws in Indianapolis that supported donor fraud survivors. However, for lying to the AG’s office, Cline was charged with two counts of obstruction to justice, and in December 2017, he pled guilty to both charges. Regardless, he was merely ordered to pay a $500 fine and the one-year prison sentence for him was waived off due to his age and the support of the community.
Jacoba and her half-siblings were extremely dejected to see Cline walk free and stated several times in her impact statement that he had lied. She added, “I isolate myself from family and friends. In addition to questioning and doubting others, I also question … the purpose of my life.” Thus, her fight to seek justice was far from over and she decided to continue fighting for better laws to tackle the problem.
Where is Jacoba Ballard Now?
Thanks to Jacoba Ballard and her half-siblings’ persistent efforts, Indiana passed legislation in 2018, that makes illicit donor inseminations illegal. She continues tracing her other half-siblings as she finds them and offers them support even today. When the documentary was being filmed, 94 of Dr. Cline’s donor offspring had been found, and the number kept rising.
The nightmare for Jacoba has still not ended, and she shared in a May 2022 interview that she fears telling another new half-sibling the cruel reality of their biological father. “So many of them don’t even know they were donor-conceived, and some believed they came from their dad’s sperm…Every time we get a new match I give them this news, and it’s like I’m ruining their life,” she disclosed.
As far as we can tell, Jacoba presently resides in Reelsville, Indianapolis, and is a public advocate against fertility fraud. Even though she has suffered so much, she has become the voice for dozens like her and actively created the Donor Conceived Community group to support donor offspring. Now in her early-40s, Jacoba endeavors continue to assist not just her half-siblings but also unrelated others who have faced a similar crisis in life.
Read More: Where is Angela Ganote Now?