Pregnancy is ‘never a crisis,’ says speaker

By Amanda Lauer | For The Compass | January 25, 2022

Tori Petersen addresses pro-life conference Jan. 22

Tori Petersen, keynote speaker at the Disciples of Life Conference held Jan. 22 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, shared her personal story of being born to a single mother and living in foster care. (Matt Riebe | The Compass)

CHAMPION — On Saturday, Jan. 22, the 49th anniversary of the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision, Bishop David Ricken hosted the Disciples of Life Conference at The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. The theme was “Walking with Moms in Need.” 

Later this year, the Supreme Court may overturn or amend that 1973 decision, which has resulted in the deaths of an estimated 61 million children in the United States. If abortion is restricted or outlawed in this country, there will be an untold number of women nationwide who will need assistance if they find themselves facing an unexpected pregnancy.

Tori Petersen, keynote speaker at the Disciples of Life Conference, addressed this scenario with her personal story.

She said she was conceived as the result of a rape, raised for a number of years by a mother dealing with drug and mental health issues, lived in a dozen foster homes until she aged out at 18, and was a victim of human trafficking at the hands of an ex-boyfriend. 

Despite what her mother went through, she reiterated the words of Jeremiah 29:11 to her daughter, Tori, throughout her growing-up years. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

That verse has always stayed with Petersen, whose full name is Victoria Hope Petersen. She never gave up hope, despite the situations in which she found herself, including discovering that she was pregnant her senior year of college.

The pregnancy may have been unplanned, but it wasn’t a crisis, she said. 

A pregnancy is never a crisis and the fact that we call it that perpetuates this issue,” said Petersen. “Words have power and we need to think more carefully about our language. To pregnant women who are afraid and unsupported, my message to them is always that God does not make mistakes. He has a purpose and a plan for you and your baby.”  

In 2018, Petersen married her husband, Jacob. They now have two biological children, their 3-year-old son and a 1-year-old daughter. In addition, they have an adopted adult son who is an immigrant from Liberia and foster other children in their home.

Petersen, who is the author of the upcoming book “Fostered,” is clear on her mission in life. 

“My experience in foster care as a former foster youth, foster care advocate and foster mom fuels my life’s passion to raise up and nurture my own family, as well as advocate for those without family,” she said. “My heart is burdened for the foster care community, foster youth, vulnerable youth and suffering families.”

She was inspired to start speaking publicly about the foster care system when she was still part of the system herself. “When I was 16, I was given opportunities to share about my time in foster care and what God had done in my life. I saw people change their hearts about foster care, get involved, and God used my story to bring people to salvation,” she said. “Genesis 50:20 is foundational for me, ‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.’ I just want to be obedient to God. To go and tell.”

Petersen said she shares her life’s challenges “to let my Abba Father be known through stories, to offer hope to the hurting and to serve people who are often ostracized and left out.” 

To that end, in 2020, she and her husband founded Beloved Initiative, a nonprofit that seeks to change the narrative for youth in foster care. They are also the founders of the Fostering the Good scholarship at Petersen’s alma mater, Hillsdale College, a private college in Hillsdale, Mich.

Statistically, things don’t always work out well for children coming out of the foster care system. National Foster Youth Institute recently estimated that 60% of child sex trafficking victims have been within foster care or another part of the larger child welfare system. Petersen said that 60% of youth coming out of the foster system earn incomes below the poverty line and that only around 3% graduate from post-secondary education.

If the Supreme Court does overturn Roe v. Wade, there may be a critical need for expanding the foster care system. People who are pro-life would most likely support such an initiative, but not everyone is cut out to be foster parents like Petersen and her husband.

There are so many ways people can get involved outside of being a foster parent,” said Petersen. “I’d suggest people head to my website (torihopepetersen.com) and take my foster care course. It helps guide people of all ages and backgrounds to get involved in ways that fit their lifestyle and gifts.”

Regardless of the Supreme Court ruling, Petersen will continue on her mission. Her dream, she said, would be “that every pro-lifer would put as much energy into the foster care system as they do their annual marches.”

At the conclusion of the conference, Petersen said she had one hope for everyone who was in attendance: “That we will leave whatever is holding us back from serving, stepping up and loving bodily at the feet of Jesus.” 

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