Residents of the District of Columbia particularly notice their lack of real home rule about this time every year when Congress tampers with the D.C. budget. It's common for the congressmen, at the last minute, to add language insisting that Washington cabs not have meters or that Washington can't have a lottery, the proceeds of which would be used to hire police officers and firefighters. These additions to the budget are usually made without consulting local officials or D.C. taxpayers.

But all of this is small potatoes compared with what Congress is trying to do about abortions in D.C. through the budget process. Every year since 1978 some members of Congress have tried to do to the District what they have been unable to do in their own states: to prohibit the use of local tax money for abortions.

This year even President Reagan joined the fight. In a briefing to right-to-life leaders in the White House on July 30, he cited removing local funds for abortion from the D.C. budget as one of the four steps that he has taken to support the cause: ''You'll be pleased to know that, in transmitting to Congress the District of Columbia budget for 1988, we made it clear that both federal and local funds must comply with the Hyde Amendment." The Hyde Amendment, which was passed in 1977, limits the use of federal funds for abortions nationwide, except in extraordinary cases.

So it's not just what members of Congress can't do in their own states, but now what the president can't do nationwide, that they are trying to do to residents of the District of Columbia.

In the House, this year's debate centered on home rule, as it should have.

Rep. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) stated on the floor: ''In fact, we treat the District of Columbia as a vassal state.''

''There is not a member in this House who would stand still to have the jurisdiction and authority of {his} own local government infringed in this way, and it would be a disgrace if such members would be voting to deny the people of the District of Columbia their right just because of the artificial federal control which currently exists,'' said Rep. Bruce Morrison (D-Conn.).

But Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) had an interesting way of looking at the issue: ''Seventy-nine percent of those responding in the last survey in my district were opposed to any type of government funding of abortion. I submit that this is a step that meets with the strong approval of a large majority of citizens in my district.''

But the vote was not on federal money that was to be spent, but local money. I wonder how a poll of his district would turn out if Congress sought to remove local funding for abortion in West Virginia. West Virginia is one of only nine states that continues to pay for abortions for indigent woman through local funds.

What the House finally passed was an amendment to the D.C. appropriations act, which would bar the use of local tax revenues for abortion, with no exceptions -- even if the life of the mother were at stake and even if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. Now we must depend on the Senate to remove the amendments and to prevail in the conference committee. The Senate is a body in which D.C. has no representation.

The decision to pay for medical programs that include abortion as an option through locally raised tax money was achieved through the lengthy budget process of the D.C. Council and mayor -- all duly elected representatives of the citizens of the District of Columbia. Members of Congress are neither elected by residents of D.C. nor in any other way accountable to D.C. residents. Shouldn't the District have the right to decide how locally raised tax money should be spent?

The reason all this is happening is the District's lack of home rule. It is an anachronistic holdover from the creation of the capital in Article I, section 8, clause 17 of the Constitution. I've always been willing to forgive Jefferson, Madison et al. for our lack of representation in Congress in 1800 and the domination of Congress over us as a result of the wording of the clause. They were, after all, not just setting up the nation's capital; they were creating a nation. We didn't have the population for representation in Congress at that time, and they must have been worried about who was going to govern the capital, so they picked Congress. But now, 187 years later, it's beginning to wear thin.

One small step was taken in 1973 when senators and representatives holding widely divergent political views recognized that citizens of the District of Columbia had too long been denied the right to elect a local government and passed the D.C. Self-Government Act. Now we need them to preserve it by not imposing their various single interests on District residents through our budget.

-- Mary Jane DeFrank is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area.