The ordeal experienced by migrant women across the continent is unimaginable. Millions travel miles on foot to give their children and families a better future. And the worst threats, including abuse and rape, await them at every turn.

But the nightmare doesn’t end when they cross the border. A new NBC News report sheds light on the alarming number of migrant women entering the United States with unwanted pregnancies. It is “a disturbing pattern of violence that’s emerging on the Mexican side of the border,” as described by reporters Paola Ramos and Kay Guerrero.

In the border zone, cartels “are systematically kidnapping and collecting ransom from migrants on their way north,” they wrote. “Those who can’t pay with money are made to pay with their bodies.”

Credit: Getty Images.

Another epidemic of violence

According to 2016 figures, an estimated 60-80% of migrants are sexually assaulted during the journey. These numbers have only worsened over the past seven years.

In September 2023, Reuters reported that women from other regions, such as Venezuela, have also endured kidnapping and extortion. Often, their captors demand that they call their families in Venezuela “to beg them to pay $2,000 ransom.”

From October to December 2023, Doctors Without Borders recorded a 70% increase in consultations for sexual violence in the Mexican border cities of Reynosa and Matamoros compared to the previous three months. In the first two months of 2024, it has already recorded nearly 70 cases of sexual violence, NBC News explained.

Credit: Getty Images.

However, crossing the border does not alleviate the consequences of sexual violence

As Ramos and Guerrero explained, many of the women victims of sexual violence in Mexico arrive on U.S. soil pregnant.

“More than 20 people started to rape me. They told me, ‘This is what happens to you for not paying [the] ransom, and so you remember that Mexican territory is respected,'” a female asylum-seeker from Guatemala told NBC News.

Despite making it across the border, they are confronted with Texas’ ban on abortion.

“Without knowing English and overwhelmed by the complex legal landscape surrounding reproductive rights,” some immigrants look for ways to access abortion pills. However, in both Texas and 14 Republican-led states, access to mifepristone and misoprostol is banned.

Activists and migrants themselves have taken action to help women who are victims of sexual violence

Faced with the horrifying reality experienced by migrant women at the southern border, the resistance and courage of the community stepped forward.

One of the migrants NBC News interviewed managed to undergo her “own self-managed medication abortion.” When she found five doses of misoprostol, and knowing how difficult it was to get the medication, she decided to bypass the state law. The migrant distributed the abortion pills to other women in similar situations.

“I have two options: Either I harm my record, or I help. I said, ‘I prefer to help. And whatever happens, happens.'” She gave her last dose to a recently arrived migrant in Texas who was going through the same situation. “She told me, ‘I just got here and am pregnant. I need the pills.’ I said, ‘OK, I am going to drop them off.'”

Similarly, Laura Molinar and her organization, Sueños Sin Fronteras de Tejas, have decided to stand up to the state. The San Antonio-based organization provides reproductive health education and assistance to asylum-seeking and undocumented women. This includes information and assistance to those seeking abortions.

As reported by the Texas Tribune, Molinar “does what she does because she’s seen the desperation of women pregnant by their abusers and running out of options to build a safe and secure life.”

“We’re going to do whatever we have to do to support someone in this decision,” Molinar said. “These are the laws, but these are things we believe in and what our organization is founded on.”