KAREN MULHAUSER is the executive director of the National Abortion Rights Action League. In August of 1978, she was raped at gunpoint in her Capitol Hill home by two men. Her husband was away. Her son was asleep upstairs. Two men later confessed as part of a plea-bargaining deal to raping Mulhauser and two other women. Mulhauser subsequently revealed what had happened to her to members of Congress in testimony designed to dramatize the need for abortion funding for women who become pregnant as a result of rape. "I was determined to make something positive out of this," she told The Los Angeles Times in an article which appeared in February 1980.

A year later, Mulhauser has written a letter to New York magazine saying she feels as if she has been raped again. In this week's issue, she is the victim of a vicious personal attack on her looks, her credibility and therefore her work by Paul Brown, political director of the Life Amendment Political Action Committee. Brown, a member of the conservative coalition that met with President Reagan yesterday, takes the art of discrediting one's opponent to a level that has not been accepted outside of locker rooms in years, in an interview with Michael Kramer, the magazine's national political editor. "You know," Brown said, "I hear that Karen claims she was once raped. Well, let me tell you, Karen is not the most beautiful creature in the world, so when I hear her say she was raped, my response is 'you wish.'"

It is hard to believe that Paul Brown does not know that Karen Mulhauser was raped. Shortly after the Los Angeles Times article appeared, a man named Christian S. White of the American Life Lobby showed up at the sex squad of the D.C. police department. He wanted to talk to Detective Tom Kelly who had investigated the Mulhauser case. White, says Kelly, "was asking a lot of questions and had some knowledge of the case." Kelly, because of the confidential nature of rape cases, said he wasn't answering questions and pointed White to the public record. He also called Mulhauser to let her know what was going on and make her a copy of a memo White showed him.

Judie Brown, president of the American Life Lobby and the wife of Paul Brown, acknowledged writing the memo in a phone interview yesterday. The memo instructs White to find out four things: were two men convicted of the Mulhauser rape, did she have to testify against them, would they have been convicted without her testimony, and "was she even raped." (Italics mine.) The memo contains a reference to another antiabortion worker, with phone number, and concludes: "Please report back to me. . . . Please keep this quiet; I want our contact in Los Angeles to have first crack at this because of the LA Times story." i

Now you might draw the conclusion from the tone of this memo that the American Life Lobby was up to something sinister with this kind of behavior. You might even think from this tone that the American Life Lobby was suspicious of Mulhauser's story and might even be out to destroy her credibility. But just as Paul Brown was claiming he was misquoted in New York magazine yesterday, so was his wife coming up with an explanation for her interest in Karen Mulhauser.

According to Judie Brown, the American Life Lobby -- which opposes abortion under all circumstances, even when the life of the mother is endangered by the pregnancy -- is also concerned these days about treatment of rape victims. According to Judie Brown, White's visit to Kelly "was part of a research project on the whole subject of rape. She just happened to be a case that we knew of in the area and we have a great concern over adequate reporting of rape and adequate protection for rape victims.

"Our position with reguard to rape victims is to encourage our supporters to give assistance at the community level so that the victims of rape are made to feel they are loved and can be cared for rather than being made to feel that they themselves have caused the crime to be committed.

"People in the prolife movement are a very caring group of people. . . . If you're going to be prolife you have to be prolife for those people who are already here on earth. That has to include concern for the victims of rape."

Paul Brown is now saying that in the New York interview he was telling a story about a comment another antiabortionist had made about Mulhauser. He won't name the other person. As for Kramer, who stands by the accuracy of his quote, Paul Brown says he is "lying through his teeth."

"Quite frankly," says Paul Brown, "I do not hold Karen Mulhauser in great respect, but I do show compassion and pity for anyone in those circumstances. I do not respect Karen Mulhauser as a human being for her stand on abortion. The fact is she advocates killing."

Judie Brown finds that statement of her husband's "terribly unfortunate. I don't happen to agree with him at all. I think in my Christian opinion she is equal to any other human being who walks the face of the earth. Even though I don't agree with her advocacy of abortion on demand, she is still a human being."

But Paul Brown need not worry about his wife's reaction to his latest appraisal of Karen Mulhauser. He can always says he was misquoted, and besides, that's between them. But Paul Brown and LAPAC have some measure of political importance right now. He was, let us remember, a member of the conservative coalition that met with President Reagan yesterday.

If the president has any concern about maintaining a level of civil decency in the coming abortion battle, he ought to watch the company he keeps.