The General Accounting Office has launched its investigation of allegations that Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman Terrence M. Scanlon used his staff and other government resources to perform work for the "right-to-life" antiabortion movement.

The GAO also is investigating whether Scanlon violated CPSC rules governing meetings with companies, and provided internal agency information to firms that were targets of CPSC investigations of suspected safety violations.

Scanlon has repeatedly denied the allegations, which were made by Joan Claybrook, president of the lobby Public Citizen, at Scanlon's confirmation hearing more than a month ago. Scanlon, an officer in local right-to-life organizations, has called the charge that he did work for the antiabortion movement at government expense a "veiled attack" on his religious views.

Because the Senate Commerce Committee does not intend to move on the nomination until the investigation is completed, committee Chairman John C. Danforth (R-Mo.) asked the GAO to act "expeditiously." But committee aides said that if the investigation is not completed by the end of this session of Congress, Scanlon will have to relinquish his recess appointment as chairman. However, he could remain at the agency until his term as commissioner expires in October 1989.

Scanlon received his recess appointment as chairman last December, but his name was not sent to the Senate until July, and his confirmation hearing -- where he was expected to win easy approval -- was not held until September. Scanlon advocates the use of voluntary safety standards rather than mandatory ones set by the CPSC.

Allen Moore, staff director and chief counsel of the committee, said, "If the GAO investigation drags on -- which we don't expect it to -- I would expect the White House to reappoint" Scanlon.

MEANWHILE, ON THE DAWSON NOMINATION . . . CPSC vice chairman Carol G. Dawson also is waiting for the committee to complete action on her renomination to a seven-year term.

Dawson received a recess appointment in July 1984, and was confirmed last March. Subsequently, she was nominated to the longer term. The committee held a confirmation hearing last Thursday, but it won't vote on the nomination before Nov. 14. Dawson's views on regulation are considered to be closer to Scanlon's than to other board members.

MEANWHILE, ON THE GRAHAM NOMINATION . . . The committee also hasn't acted on the nomination of Anne Graham, assistant secretary of Education for legislation and public affairs, to the CPSC seat left vacant when Nancy Harvey Steorts resigned last November. But Senate sources say her nomination could also be taken up Nov. 14.

Graham declined to testify this week before a House subcommittee that is examining whether a committee she chairs has limited the dissemination of educational information and findings from research programs funded by the Education Department.

"Limits on dissemination today could easily become censorship tommorow -- nobody wants that," said Ted Weiss (D-N.Y.), who chairs the House Government Operations subcommittee on intergovernmental relations and human resources. "Much of the research and evaluation information that is funded by the Department of Education is aimed at improving our schools, and it is crucial that this information be made available to educators across the country," Weiss said

Graham, who chairs the department's Publications and Audio Visual Advisory Committee, which was created in 1981 to help trim funds for publications and audio visual products, told the subcommittee she couldn't testify because of a prior commitment.