The XX Factor

Marco Rubio Wants You to Know that a Fertilized Human Egg Cannot Become a Cat (or a Donkey)

It’s not untrue.

Last week, Byron York of the Washington Examiner asked why Marco Rubio, who was considered to be “a new member of the top tier in the Republican race” back in April, has slid down into seventh place in a crowded field, with only 5.2 percent of potential Republican voters. But York overlooks one hypothesis about Rubio’s plight that should be considered more carefully: the dork factor. Rubio’s latest dork-out is not rap-related, nor does it involve a water bottle, but it’s still pretty hard to take.

When Rubio appeared on CNN after Thursday night’s Republican debate, he kept insisting that this vague entity called “science” has declared that human life begins at conception. (Actual biologists, for what it’s worth, argue that life is continuous and that a fertilized egg is no more or less alive than a sperm or an unfertilized egg.) CNN host Chris Cuomo vainly tried to point out that “science” says no such thing, and Rubio got a little excited. 

“Let me interrupt you. Science has—absolutely it has. Science has decided… Science has concluded that—absolutely it has. What else can it be?” he asked. Then Rubio reared up for what he clearly intended as his wowza line: “It cannot turn into an animal. It can’t turn into a donkey. The only thing that that can become is a human being.”

Cuomo pointed out that Rubio was “oversimplifying it a little bit”: “It having a DNA map—so does a plant.” The question of when you think a fertilized egg/embryo/fetus becomes a person is, Cuomo said, a matter of “faith. That’s not science.”

But Rubio, grinning with pleasure at the sick burn he’s about to administer, replied, “Well, if they can’t say it will be human life, what does it become, then? Could it become a cat?”

Rubio is so in love with his joke that his campaign is making a thing of it: creating a petition—decorated with a cute picture of a cat—declaring that a fertilized egg has the potential to develop into a person and not a cat. Which no one disputes.

Now, I am the proud owner of two cats. Despite what Marco Rubio may think, I am aware I got them from the pound, not from my uterus. I’d guess most women who get abortions likewise understand that they are not terminating their right to cat custody. Rubio’s education efforts on the whole cat-human distinction may be well-intended, but he can rest easy.

Human sperm cells, much like fertilized eggs, have human DNA. If a sperm cell is allowed to complete its development process instead of dying sadly with a million of his brothers inside a dirty gym sock, it will also, coupled with an egg, develop into a human being. 

Clearly, the only solution is to ban masturbation. Because it’s not feline DNA you’re killing off, guys. They may be microscopic, but your fellas are trying to turn into people, not cats. Because science.