The Washington Post

Keke Palmer says yes to many roles. This time, it was to ‘Nope.’

- BY SAMANTHA CHERY

Keke Palmer doesn’t want to be “onenote.”

It makes sense: In two decades in Hollywood, she’s played roles including a spelling bee champion, a stripper, an enslaved woman and the first Black Cinderella on Broadway. In her next film, “Nope,” which came out Friday, she’s taking on the role of a Hollywood horse trainer confrontin­g potentiall­y deadly invaders. Naturally.

On-screen, Palmer has committed to rediscover­ing herself over and over as she continues her chameleon-like streak through the business.

Since her big break as Queen Latifah’s niece in the 2004 comedy film “Barbershop 2: Back in Business,” Palmer, 28, has captivated audiences in movies, on television shows, through albums and EPS, and with live musical performanc­es. At 20 years old, she became the youngest talk-show host in television history with the premiere of “Just Keke.”

Her likability has also made her particular­ly ubiquitous on the internet. A sound bite of her greeting Megan Thee Stallion at last year’s Met Gala — where Palmer was hosting red carpet coverage for Vogue — became the backdrop of a trendy Tiktok melody. And the Emmywinnin­g actress saying “Sorry to this man” when she didn’t recognize a picture of former vice president Dick Cheney during a 2019 lie detector test with Vanity Fair has become a social media meme staple.

Whether on set or online, Palmer’s persona is infectious, as seen in her performanc­e in “Nope,” which has been met

ruling came down from the Supreme Court, and the stories of how it has landed in the world of maternal health have revealed chaos and cruelty: pregnant women forced to cramp and bleed for days on end, long after heartbeats disappeare­d; doctors paralyzed into inaction, afraid that if they delivered what they knew to be the best medical care, they would face legal repercussi­ons; and pharmacist­s unwilling to fill prescripti­ons for drugs that ease miscarriag­es, because they are the same drugs used for abortions.

A Texas woman learned her fetus no longer had a heartbeat but was told that she was now required to wait for a confirmati­on ultrasound before she could be given any medical attention. For the next two weeks, she carried the dead fetus in her body. She told The Washington Post that she felt “like a walking coffin.”

Another Texas woman asked for an abortion after miscarryin­g one of her twins at 15 weeks and learning the remaining pregnancy made her susceptibl­e to life-threatenin­g infection, according to the New York Times. She was told her life wasn’t endangered enough yet, that she had to be closer to death to receive the abortion she’d asked for. When she returned to the hospital weeks later, she was suffering from sepsis and an acute kidney injury. Her body and soul sufficient­ly battered, she was allowed to end her pregnancy.

Again, I ask the activists: Is this the love you imagined when you waved your protest signs reading “love them both”? When you explained that your opposition to abortion was not only about saving fetuses but also about protecting women? Is this what you wanted? The president of Texas Right to Life, John Seago, told the New York Times that, no, medical profession­als balking at treating miscarriag­es or dying women isn’t what he’d wanted. In situations where the health of the mother is in jeopardy “he acknowledg­ed that such delays could cause medical complicati­ons for women,” according to the Times, “but said ‘severe’ complicati­ons could legally be treated immediatel­y.” Miscarriag­e patients weren’t meant to be targeted by these laws, Seago said. He attributed situations like the ones mentioned above to “a breakdown in communicat­ion of the law, not the law itself.”

But the laws — Texas’s original six-week ban and the trigger law that went into effect after Dobbs — contain no special provisions for treating miscarriag­es. They do not specify how “severe” a complicati­on must be before an abortion would at last be considered a lifesaving procedure. It is unclear how lawyers, much less doctors, are supposed to know what actions they are allowed to take, and on whom.

However you might have felt about these antiaborti­on laws’ intent, you cannot deny that there is a catastroph­ic coldhearte­dness in their effect. There is no mercy at the margins, only the blunt-force instrument of trigger laws so intent on saving fetuses that the women carrying them are left suffering or dying. There is no nuance in the ways these laws were written, no curiosity in the ways they were conceptual­ized, no forethough­t in the way they were enacted.

There appears to be no desire to understand how women’s bodies work, or how abortions are actually performed, or who might get trapped in the expansive net of this new justice. Abruptly, access to abortion ended, and while antiaborti­on advocates were still congratula­ting themselves in church, women were fighting for their lives and sanity in hospitals.

Part of the issue, I think, is that many antiaborti­on activists think of an “abortion” as a murderous procedure that a bad woman has when she wants to kill her baby.

But a woman who takes medication to end an ectopic pregnancy — a life-threatenin­g condition in which an embryo has implanted outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tubes — is having an abortion. A patient who has undergone in vitro fertilizat­ion — and whose doctor suggests reducing her resulting embryos from three to two to improve maternal and fetal health — that reduction would be an abortion. An expectant mother who learns she will labor to birth a baby who will die minutes after birth and wants to spare her child the pain? That is an abortion.

The stories of the past month are the stories of what abortion actually means and the stories of what happens when that access is taken away. It is exactly what antiaborti­on activists asked for. But I hope to God it’s not what any of them wanted.

 ?? UNIVERSAL PICTURES/ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Keke Palmer as Emerald Haywood in “Nope.” She has taken on various roles since her big break as Queen Latifah’s niece in “Barbershop 2: Back in Business.”
UNIVERSAL PICTURES/ASSOCIATED PRESS Keke Palmer as Emerald Haywood in “Nope.” She has taken on various roles since her big break as Queen Latifah’s niece in “Barbershop 2: Back in Business.”
 ?? MATT MCCLAIN/THE Washington Post ?? Demonstrat­ors celebrate the overturnin­g of Roe v. Wade in June. Stories over the past month have detailed abortion bans’ effects.
MATT MCCLAIN/THE Washington Post Demonstrat­ors celebrate the overturnin­g of Roe v. Wade in June. Stories over the past month have detailed abortion bans’ effects.

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