What Gov. William Donald Schaefer is saying, in his recent reversal on Medicaid funding of abortions, is that because you are poor you must bear unwanted children, children who are more likely to be abused, unloved and neglected. Those who are delighted with the governor's change of mind will continue to value fetal life over the welfare of the woman, the family and society.

The governor's alternative -- to provide additional funds for adoption services -- is certainly worthwhile, but hardly addresses the issue of access to abortion services. Most women, no matter how difficult the circumstances, do not give up their babies. Moreover, the governor may not have considered the long-term trauma caused by giving up a child, a psychological pain far worse than an early abortion.

It is obvious, from the intense lobbying by religious groups, that theological philosophies differ widely on the morality of abortion. The so-called pro-life -- but more appropriately called anti-choice -- groups see women as victims of circumstance who must sacrifice for new life, while the pro-choice supporters see women as responsible decision makers who have the right of freedom of conscience.

The Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights speaks for those religious traditions which teach that we must have concern for women who face problem pregnancies. We work to protect against those who would impose their particular religious beliefs -- legislatively -- on those who believe differently.

We hope that the silent clergy, together with religious men and women who support religious liberty and the dignity of women's lives, will take courage and speak out in defense of these cherished principles whenever possible. We have more to lose than abortion rights if we don't.

ELEANOR A. JOHNSON White Hall