Donald Cline was formerly a man known as one of the most renowned fertility experts in Indiana, who inseminated dozens of women with his own sperm without their consent or knowledge.
Date of birth
His date of birth is not yet known.
To be updated.
Education & Early life
Cline earned his undergraduate degree from Indiana University and his M.D. from IU’s medical school. He interned at Methodist Hospital. He served two years in the United States Air Force and another 12 years in inactive reserve, and received an honorable discharge. Cline opened his 2020 West 86th Street clinic in 1979. With its drab concrete exterior and concrete spires that rose on its facade like prison bars, the three-story, 1970s-era medical office building didn’t look much like a beacon of hope. But its limited curb appeal belied what the address had come to represent for a generation of Indianapolis-area women in the 1970s and 80s, which was exactly that: a place they sought out as their last, best hope to conceive children. His oldest daughter, Donna Stein, worked for him as a registered nurse.
He was a “doctor’s doctor,” according to Dr. William E. Chapman, who has been a close friend of Cline’s since they met 59 years ago as students at Indiana University. The two even bought adjacent parcels of land in Zionsville to become neighbors. Chapman wrote all this to Marion Superior Court Judge Helen Marchal in November 2017, asking for leniency for his friend. Cline was one of the first doctors in Indiana to perform laparoscopic surgery, a minimally invasive technique that uses a tiny camera called a laparoscope. He was once a keynote speaker at the International Symposium for Infertility in Bologna, Italy. Indianapolis Monthly named him a top doctor multiple times. “He was the doctor other physicians chose for their own families with infertility or OB-GYN needs,” Chapman wrote the judge, noting that his wife, Susie, received gynecological care from Cline.
He was a man of faith, too. He and Audrey taught a course in his home for several hundred parents called “Growing Kids God’s Way.” They had two children, Donna and Doug.
When Cline retired after 38 years in 2009, his retirement party had a receiving line “a city block in length for a period of three hours,” according to his son-in-law and former office manager Joe Stein in a letter he wrote to the judge. “He would take calls from crying and frustrated patients at all times of the day and night. As you know, infertility is a very sensitive thing for a family to go through. He was amazing.”
So the 11 letters to the court in Cline’s support continued. John B. “Jay” Parks, the husband of one of Cline’s satisfied OB-GYN patients from the 1980s, noted: “What Dr. Cline did to mitigate this problem of [not having enough viable sperm donors] is not illegal. At least he has corrected the error publicly.” James. R. Nicholson, a fellow church member, wrote that Cline “has confessed openly to his errors and has repented of them.”
Even the then-Boone County prosecutor, Todd J. Meyer, wrote the judge asking for leniency. For five years, Meyer and his wife had struggled to become pregnant.
They had discussed adoption. But Cline helped them, presumably using a donor’s sperm, and the Meyers have three boys now. “I am convinced,” wrote Meyer, “that but for Dr. Cline, my wife and I would not have the family we have today.” Meyer requested that the judge give Cline alternate misdemeanor sentencing. “I believe he is the type of offender that alternate misdemeanor sentencing was designed for and by him demonstrating his remorsefulness and taking accountability for his actions through his plea of guilty, I personally believe such a sentence accomplishes justice.”
But when Cline talked with me on his porch in the spring, he didn’t seem remorseful. “It’s been a real hard problem for me,” he said of his mounting legal woes.
His love life is not yet publicly known.
Not yet established.
Career and Controversy
Don Cline was known as a premier fertility expert. As one person says in Our Father’s trailer, “Dr. Cline was the best infertility doctor in Indianapolis.” But this image of Cline was destroyed after an investigation found he had used his own sperm to inseminate his patients — without their knowledge or consent — dozens of times, resulting in his paternity of at least 50 children, all born in the ’70s and ’80s. Since this type of fertility fraud isn’t considered a crime under federal or Indiana state law, Cline’s victims struggled to find adequate legal justice. Cline retired from practice in 2009, and in 2017 he was convicted on two felony counts for obstructing the investigation. In 2018, the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana moved to prohibit him from applying to reinstate his license in the future.
How did Don Cline’s children find out he was their father?
According to a 2019 deep dive in The Atlantic, Ballard was one of the first to piece together the details. She told the publication that she found her first half-sister on an online forum for donor-conceived children, and they connected over the fact that their parents both worked with Cline. When she looked the woman up on Facebook, she was struck by their physical similarities. That’s when Ballard and her half-sister decided to get at-home DNA kits, and not only discovered that they were related but that there were even more siblings out there.
They weren’t alone in their discovery. In Our Father’s trailer, some of Cline’s other children say that they also learned about him through DNA kits. “When I opened up Ancestry, I had over 3,000 hits,” one recalls. “All of these random names were popping up, and it said ‘Close Family,’ ” says another.