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Medford Family Shines Light on Pre-Natal Down Syndrome

The McLaughlin's and their daughter, Grace, were featured in the most recent edition of TIME.

This story has been re-published because Huffington Post has chosen Medford's Melanie McLaughlin and her daughter Grace as today's "Greatest Person of the Day." Check out McLaughlin and other greatest people of the day here.

When Melanie McLaughlin found out her unborn daughter had Down syndrome in 2007, she was faced with an unimaginably difficult decision.

"We all like to think we know what we’ll do, but you don’t really know until until you're faced with it," McLaughlin said in a phone interview Thursday.

After meeting with a family with a child with Down syndrome and much research, McLaughlin, 46, decided to keep her daughter, now four and named Grace.

McLaughlin now helps other parents in the same position as a volunteer with Parents First Call, an organization that gives non-directive support to mothers who have discovered their unborn child has Down syndrome.

“At the time, I really struggled with my decision,” McLaughlin said. “I had to do a lot of research before I could decide whether to continue with the pregnancy or not.”

McLaughlin, who has lived in West Medford for 12 years with her husband Terry and three kids, is featured in a TIME Magazine article "Early Decision" released in February that focuses on the risk of a pre-natal Down syndrome diagnosis. Her and Grace were also featured on CBS This Morning Feb. 22.

At the time of McLaughlin's pregnancy in 2007, the only way to test for pre-natal Down syndrome was through an invasive procedure, which she had. But pregnant women can now take a non-invasive blood test, called MaterniT21.

The new test has raised questions over where the line should be drawn when it comes to pre-natal testing.

"If it's not for Down syndrome what is it for? Is it for homosexuality? Is it for breast cancer? Is it for Alzheimer's? Is it for, you know, autism?" McLaughlin told CBS. "Because you're going to need to ask those questions, because they're coming."

Along with her volunteer work, McLaughlin also runs a monthly support group for parents of children with Down syndrome out of her home. Parents interested can contact her at melanie.mclaughlin@comcast.net.

Note: The TIME article is behind a paywall. Only subscribers can read the entire article online. The issue, featuring a cover photo of Kim Jong Un, is available on newstands now. You can read more of TIME's coverage of Down syndrome here.

Suzy Kurtz February 17, 2012 at 08:30 PM
In headline: *Down Syndrome NOT Downs
Suzy Kurtz February 17, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Second paragraph: *a child with Down syndrome NOT "a Down Syndrome child."
Suzy Kurtz February 17, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Do all journalistic standards go out the door on Patch? How about a little fact checking, spell checking, etc.
Jarret Bencks (Editor) February 17, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Thank you Suzy. I am aware it is Down Syndrome, not Downs Syndrome. It was a typo. As far as fact checking goes, is there something specific you're referring to?
Suzy Kurtz February 17, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Maybe I meant proofreading. Down syndrome also misspelled a few times in the article. Please use "person first" language when referring to any kind of person.
Richie M February 18, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Such a stickler for detail eh Suzy??
Richie M February 18, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Great article Jarret.
Shelly Clark February 19, 2012 at 02:13 AM
The attitude conveyed by Ms. Kurtz is precisely the reason populations of differently abled people are seriously contemplated regarding their worth of reporting. It's like darned I you do, darned of you don't. Reporters, for the most part, work very hard to report for the benefit of a population in need of public awareness. The first mistake, the first thing they print that is wrong they get chastised. Bad news for proliferation of awareness.
Janna February 19, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Hmmm when I read the article I was not thinking of spelling or grammatical errors I was thinking of the feelings of the people being interviewed.
Michele H February 19, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Thank you for this article on a truly wonderful family and important issue. The polite thing for Ms. Kurtz to do would have been to send a private email to Mr. Bencks rather than scolding him in a public forum.

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