Review of The Pregnancy Project on Netflix

In 2011, Gaby Rodriguez was a senior at Toppenish High School in Washington. Gabby was a straight A student, on track to graduate with a 3.8 GPA, and on her way to college. Gaby was in the top 5% of her class and participated in a leadership program, where she talked to her classmates about safe sex. And then she revealed something no one saw coming. She was pregnant.

Only, she wasn’t. To her classmates and her family members, Gaby was pregnant. For herself, her boyfriend, her mother, and her school’s principal and superintendent, nothing had changed. For her senior project, Gaby decided to discuss and research the statistics of teenage pregnancy whilst faking her own. Born to a Hispanic, single mother who was pregnant as a teenager, Gaby said that it was almost expected that she too would be impregnated as a teenager just as her mother and sisters were.

To her classmates, Gaby had become another statistic. She had become an “irresponsible teenager.” Gaby wanted to see the reaction from her classmates, teachers, and family members if she did just what everyone secretly expected of her.

Left to right: Alexa Vega (who portrays Gaby in the movie) and Gaby Rodriguez.

The Center for Disease Control published a report around the time of Gaby’s announcement that stated that nearly 5,000 girls in 19 states became pregnant and gave birth in the period from 2004 to 2008.

The movie, which came out in 2012 on Lifetime, was loosely based off the novel Gaby wrote (as most movies usually are). There are plot lines added for dramatic effect, however, many of the words whispered about Gaby by her classmates were taken directly from Gaby’s journal.

It was bound to happen.”

What a waste of a life, she can forget about college.”

“I’m not surprised.”

In an excerpt from Gaby’s memoir, she states after hearing that comment, “Really? Why were they not surprised? What had I ever done to indicate that I was irresponsible or didn’t have my priorities straight?” In the book and in the movie, Gaby noted that her reputation immediately changed in the eyes of her classmates and teachers.

During one scene, Gaby overhears two girls discussing not eating in order to lose weight for prom. “I don’t want to look like a fat cow!” one girl announces. To this her friend responds stating that no one’s going to look as awful as Gaby. “Can you imagine going to prom pregnant? They’re going to look ridiculous.” The two girls finish their conversation by explaining that they would, “rather be dead than pregnant...it’s the same thing. Your life is over anyway. You have to have brain damage to get pregnant in high school.”

As a viewer, that’s the part that really got me. “You have to have brain damage to get pregnant in high school.” Really? The CDC reported in 2013 that 46.8% of high school students are sexually active. Now, to the parents reading this, don’t roll your eyes. We can all pretend to be naive all we want, but chances are you were sexually active in high school as well. To say that someone is stupid for getting pregnant, in my opinion, is wrong. You could do all the right things-- wear a condom, be on birth control, but you know what? Mistakes happen. What if the condom breaks? What if “the pill” doesn’t pull through? A 92% effectiveness rate is not 100%... I mean, it’s not rocket science. The risk of pregnancy is there.

After Gaby overheard this conversation in the bathroom, she changed her project to not only look at the statistics of pregnancy but the stereotypes that go along with them.

In the movie, there is another character, Tyra, who is also pregnant. Through Gaby’s friendship with Tyra, she learns the real struggle of being a pregnant teenager-- she has to face the struggles of raising a child by herself. Tyra takes Gaby to the Goodwill shop, where she has to shop for maternity clothes. “They should make maternity clothes for teenagers.” Immediately, Gaby responds,”No they shouldn’t!” And I too had the same reaction. But then I thought about it.

What I say next, I have to be really careful with. I don’t want to say teenage pregnancy is wrong, but I also don’t want to say it’s right. As a teenager myself, I know the last thing I could handle right now is pregnancy and eventually caring for another human being. But, if I were to become pregnant and chose to keep my child, I would want some clothes to wear and I bet you would too. The thing is, teenage pregnancy should never be something to strive for, but if a young girl does become pregnant, she shouldn’t be punished by the rest of society for that.

At the end of the movie, Gaby reveals to the student body during an assembly that she is not actually pregnant.

“Stereotype,” she begins, “a generalization usually exaggerated or oversimplified and often offensive that is used to describe or distinguished a group. A stereotype is like a box that people put us in so that they don’t have to deal with the real person. We shouldn’t slap labels on people and make them disappear into little boxes.”

As Gaby states, “I know that getting pregnant young is not the best thing…” But to punish a young girl who is already facing probably one of the toughest moments in her life isn’t okay. To tell a young girl who has hopes and aspirations that she is stupid and might as well give up on her future is wrong. If someone tells you something enough, you begin to believe it yourself. If you are told enough times that you’ll never go to college, chances are you’ll never go to college. Society needs to stop seeing pregnant teenage girls as pregnant and start seeing them as teenage girls and more so, as human beings. 

Photo Sources: 1, 2, 3
Sources: 1, 2, 3