The pro-abortion people have had to lower themselves to match their opponents in the sick-making business of displaying revolting photographs. Where the anti-abortion people parade around with pictures of mutilated fetuses, the National Abortion Rights Action League has a pamphelt out showing the remains of women who accidently killed themselves trying to get rid of their unwanted pregnancies.

It's tasteless but necessary for the pro-abortion people feel, with good reason, that the 1973 Supreme Court decision which accorded women this right more or less on demand is slowly being taken away from them. Almost everywhere and in every way groups are at work trying to nullify the practical effects of the Court's decision. One of the most worrisome attempts is the law which prohibits spending government money on abortions.

Implementation is currently being held up by a federal court injunction, but those kinds of games can only impede the anti-abortionists so long. A new law, which repeats last year's prohibition, is working its way through Congress with the support of HEW Secretary Joseph Califano and President Carter.

By every known measure of public opinion, the abortionists represent a majority point of view. Even Catholics, who are supposed to be so hostile, show up in all the surveys as favoring the right to abortion. But the majority is flaccid, unanimated and complacent in the assumption that the issue is settled.

It isn't. The majority is organized, energetic and seems to care more about abolishing the right to abortion to pro-abortion people care about maintaining it. This comes about, in measure, because the abortion people won their rights in the courts instead of in the legislatures.

Prior to the 1973 decision, the dynamics of the situation were reversed. It was the pro-abortion forces which had the enthusiasm to battle elections and lobby legislators. They were on the offensive when they got hit over the head with a judicial deus ex machina. In a trice the Supreme Court had done all their work for them, and they went to sleep.

The dubious abortion rights victory had the opposite effent on the anti's. Not only had a practice which they consider immoral been legalized but it had been done, not under the old rules of electing and lobbying the majority of the legislators. but by blackrobed fiat. The anti-abortion laws and rules which had been just, legal and constitutional for the better part of 200 years were stamped vold on the say-so of nine remote men. If the anti-abortion people have been galvanized into a crusade, you can't blame 'em.

You can't support 'em either. The wonder is that the conservatives who dominate the national legislature would be supporting them by restricting federal abortion funds for low-income and indigent women. Most of such women are black of Hispanic or members of some other groups which conservatives view with jaundiced heart and heavy eye. They could look at it this way. Abortion is the gentile form of genocide which liberals approve of. Every black baby which is dee-and-ceed out of existence is one less political and social problem 16 years hence. The argument is disgustingly barbaric, but you have to appeal to people in accordance with how they think. It's absurd to approach some encrusted, congressional toad and plead with him on the basis that black women ought o have the same rights as middle- and upper-class white women. No. Put his prejudice to productive work by inflaming his imagination with thoughts of fetal savagery. Stamp on 'em while they're young.

For members of the legislature who may be less interested in killing off their neighbor's putative children, there are other reasons for pointing out that the refusal to spend federal money in this way is shortsighted. Women who do not want their children have no reason to be negligent about pre-natal care. The evidence is growing overwhelmingly that liqour, tobacco and dozens of other substances not normally found in humans' food supply causes a variety of awful defects. Like the man says, you can pay a little money now or a lot of money in a lifetime of custodial care later.

The ground of this controversy is so well and so long fought over no one has had anything new to say in years, only new, shocking and disturbing ways of saying what's already been said. Great issues, however, are usually carried not by the wisest or the most eloquent, but by dogged repetition.