Because of a typographical error, a story in yesterday's editions stated an incorrect amount in Medicaid funds paid in 1975 for 278,000 abortions for the poor. The correct amount is $50 million.

One of the most hotly debated questions of the current abortion government - through its Medicaid program - should continue to pay for abortions for the poor.

IN 1975 Medicaid paid estimated $5 million to provide 278,000 abortions, or slightly more than one quarter of all the legal abortions in the U.S. that year.

Neillie Grey, president of the March For Life, expressed outrage at the concept of taxpayers providing such a service, arguing, "There have been no authorizations of monies to be expended for killing babies."

And Health Education and Welfare Secretary Joseph A. Califano Jr. said in Senate confirmation hearings he opposes use of Medicaid funds to pay for abortions, but will enforce the law.

That is in serious question now.

Last year Congress passed an appropriation bill rider which forbade use of Medicaid funds for abortions. A U.S. District Court judge in Brooklyn called the limitation unconstitutional, and payments have continued while the case in on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

At the same time, the court is expected to rule this session on whether public hospitals which provide the poor other forms of pregnancy and maternal care must also provide abortions.

The poor have a great deal to lose should the courts decide against them.

Given estimates that at least three-fourths of the women who have legal abortions would have illegal operations, a cutoff of funding would have the effect of sending scores of thousands of poor women to illegal clinics.

While the annual number of deaths from illegal abortions was almost always exaggerated in the past Dr. Christopher Tietze of the Population Council puts the figure closer to 300 a year than the thousands often claimed.

Despite the image of abortion as a white, middle-class phenomenon, a recently released study by Tietze shows that while more white women than black have abortions, 2.2 times as many black women per 100,000 have abortions as white women per 100,000.

Questions of morality aside, the Tietze study raises serious questions about what would happen to poor women if they were denied access to legal abortion.