Nikolai Yezhov and Lavrenti Beria remain notorious. Yezhov was a crazed, alcoholic, bisexual dwarf who enthusiastically oversaw Stalin’s Great Terror. Beria, his successor, was a sadistic killer and rapist. Neither, particularly Beria, was averse to getting blood on his shirt.

Preceding these depraved Stalinist hangmen was the lesser-known Vyacheslav Menzhinsky. Menzhinsky was an intellectual of sorts. Like Himmler, he let his thugs do their thing in the cellars and kept his own collar clean. Menzhinsky would recline upon a divan, legs wrapped in a blanket, and interrogate his victims in a kindly fashion. And yet, the historian Donald Rayfield noted that the “excruciatingly polite” and efficient Menzhinsky was responsible for more murders than Yezhov and Beria.

That’s an imperfect segue to this: the ongoing focus on partial birth abortions has always seemed to me a case of playing at the edges, a case of accusing Beria and excusing Menzhinsky. First, there are thousands of late-term partial birth abortions, hundreds of thousands of first-trimester abortions. Second, for the doctor who “performs” the dirty deed, maybe the other types of abortion seem more clinical and less bloodthirsty than partial birth abortion. If we focus on results, though, how are these other forms less brutal for the child? To put it another way, if an executioner gave me a choice between (a) a partial birth abortion where he’d jam scissors into the back of my neck and suck my brains out, (b) a saline abortion where he’d scald me to death, or (c) his most common method, where he’d use a suction tube with a sharp cutting edge to dismember me… Well, I think I’d ask if an option (d) was available.

Beyond people playing Frankenstein and murdering the innocent and helpless, isn’t it the case that all of these methods are barbaric and vicious? No one should get kudos because they oppose one limited and little-used variety.