IF THE FEDERAL government obeyed the law the way it expects ordinary citizens to, most agencies would have been closed down yesterday. In a way, it's too bad this didn't happen. Maybe it would have pointed up in no uncertain terms the reckless force with which some members of Congress have been abusing the anti abortion issue. w

What kept Congress from providing funds on time to keep government legally running was whether federal money could be spent to pay for abortions requested by poor women who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest.

However one may feel about this question, should it -- and it alone be allowed to bring the operations of government so close to a half? For one thing public opinion polls have shown repeatedly that only a tiny minority of people support so drastic a limitation on abortion. Yet, the intensity and the single-mindedness of this group have persuaded a majority of the members of the House to substitute emotion and political expediency for common sense when any aspect of the abortion question comes to a recorded vote.

They might well consider what they were advocating this time around. The government would have been required to tell a poor woman entitled to free medical care something like this: "We're sorry you've been raped. If we catch the rapist, we'll send him to prison. We'll pay your maternity bills. But the baby is your problem."

Had it not been for a group of senators led by Ted Stevens of Alaska, that is what could have been written into federal law. It is hard to think of a more behightened and mean-spirited preoccupation than that of U.S. representatives trying their best to get the rape and incest exemptions removed from anti-abortion legislation.