Latina Teenager Fakes Pregnancy to Raise Awareness of Stereotypes

AP Photo/Yakima Herald-Republic, Gordon King

A Washington teenager who sported a fake pregnant belly for several months as an experiment finally revealed her secret last week at a school assembly.

Gaby Rodriguez, a 17-year old senior at Toppenish High School in Toppenish, Washington, pretended to be pregnant for her senior project, which was a requirement for graduation. 

According to the Yakima-Herald, the teenager only told a handful of people about the social experiment, which focused on stereotypes, rumors and statistics.  Among those in on the months-long secret were her mother, boyfriend, and school principal.  Six of Rodriguez’s seven siblings thought there was a baby inside her belly – not the wire mesh and cotton quilt batting that took its place.  Toppenish High School principal Trevor Greene said he admired Rodriguez’s courage.  “In essence, she gave up her senior year,” he told the Yakima-Herald.  “She sacrificed her senior year to find out what it would be like to be a potential teen mom.”

Rodriguez began wearing her homemade prosthetic belly to school after spring.  Her supposed due date was July 27.  Her boyfriend, 20-year Toppenish High graduate Jorge Orozco, said he thought she was nuts at first and feared having problems with her brothers.  “I was [keeping the secret] for her,” he said.  “My parents thought it was going to be a boy.”

In her research, Rodriguez found that black and Hispanic teenagers continue to have higher pregnancy rates than white teens.  According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, roughly 51 percent of Latina teenagers will get pregnant before age 20 – compared with about 30 percent of teens overall.

During her presentation last week, Rodriguez had her peers read out small cards with quotes that people made during her "pregnancy” – some of which criticized her heavily.  After she dropped the bomb and removed her fake pregnant stomach, a few nervous giggles could be heard and a loud “Whhaaaaat?” from the audience.  Next month, Rodriguez will present her research to a board of community members, which will include photos and video from last week’s assembly.

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