Mansplain it.

That is what Xavier Becerra and Josh Shapiro, attorneys general for California and Pennsylvania will do until they are blue in the face when they drag the Little Sisters of the Poor back into court and wax on about why the beliefs of these women are invalid.

In what these men no doubt fancied some sort of bold move that would rev up a sagging base, Becerra and Shapiro filed lawsuits in their states (with other male attorneys general from the states of New York, Maryland, Virginia and Delaware signing on) to take away the conscience protections granted to the Sisters by the department of Health and Human Services. Those protections prevent the nuns from being fined millions of dollars if they didn’t provide employees with things like the morning after pill in their healthcare plans. The nuns’ attorneys had to file a motion to intervene.

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Becerra and Shapiro, both men who no doubt think of themselves as rising superstars in the Democratic party, have horrible timing. Their lawsuit comes at a time when accusations of male sexual harassment of women in all forms, in both parties, seems to be reaching a fever pitch. There have been so many women coming forward post-Weinstein accusing powerful men of harassment that The New York Times actually published a chart of the men, the accusations leveled against them, and the fallout for those men to date. It's a lot to keep track of.

Coming out in the midst of this, the Becerra-Shapiro suit to rope nuns into contraception has the same icky feel of men pushing women around. Or as Princeton professor Robert P. George put it: “Can someone tell me why taking a group of elderly nuns to court to force them to implicate themselves in providing contraception is not a form a sexual harassment?” 

It most certainly is abuse of power. The same kind of grotesque abuse of power we are seeing exposed on an almost daily basis.

Becerra and Shapiro are powerful men with political ambition and a track record for bullying the little guy. For Becerra, for example, picking on nuns wasn’t enough to prove his liberal bonafides — he had to bully crisis pregnancy centers as well. Becerra has been busy defending a California law that requires pregnancy centers to advertise for abortion and the case will be heard at the Supreme Court this term. Becerra also unsuccessfully tried to lock up David Daleiden, the young man behind the Planned Parenthood sting videos that captured potentially criminal behavior at various centers around the country, now under investigation by the FBI. Even Becerra’s own home state paper, The Los Angeles Times, editorialized that his actions against Daleiden were a “disturbing overreach."

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In addition to smacking of outright bullying, the Becerra-Shapiro suit is sloppy. For starters, their own lawsuits document the myriad ways the government already widely distributes contraception without involving nuns. And why now? Why not when the Obama administration first carved out a number of secular exemptions to the so-called birth control mandate for companies like McDonald’s, Visa or Pepsi? And why not intervene in existing cases as opposed to filing entirely new lawsuits, even after a ruling from the Supreme Court and an order from an executive agency?

Why not? Because suing the party on whose hopes you’ve pegged your political career is not advantageous and because their political grandstanding must feel cool, even, to these men, when built on the backs of nuns who take care of the destitute and dying.

Those nuns have now filed for a court order to, quite literally, protect themselves from Becerra and Shapiro. One more for the abuse files.

Ashley McGuire is a Senior Fellow with The Catholic Association, and the author of Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female.

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