NEW ORLEANS, JUNE 21 -- The national "Right-to-Life" movement, a grass-roots force that swept like a hurricane across presidential politics in the 1980 election, seems to have been sundered into smaller whirlwinds in these opening months of the 1988 campaign.

The 1,000 or so antiabortion leaders who gathered here this weekend for the annual convention of the National Right to Life Committee Inc. found themselves in general agreement on ultimate goals -- government prohibition of abortion and euthanasia -- but widely split on the means of getting there as well as on the choice of a presidential candidate to advance the antiabortion cause.

Many delegates expressed the view -- borne out by some opinion surveys -- that increased concern about sexual morality in the country at large might strengthen public support for antiabortion positions. But there was concern here that the movement has been hurt by internecine policy battles.

Other antiabortion groups are sniping openly at the Right to Life Committee, and at one another, in an argument over antiabortion legislation President Reagan sent to Congress earlier this year. Some abortion opponents support the so-called "Superbill." Others maintain just as strenuously that it isn't worth the expenditure of time and energy.

Given these differences over causes and candidates, it seems unlikely as of now that the antiabortion movement will be a unified force in the 1988 Republican presidential primaries.

"There's debate going on within the pro-life movement," noted Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), who came here to garner movement support in next year's Republican presidential primaries. "Pro-life people are arguing over who ought to run the ball, who's going to pass, who's going to call the signals."

Kemp, a former football quarterback, received vivid proof of his metaphor shortly after his arrival here. The candidate was challenged to express support for Dr. Bernard Nathanson, producer of two graphic antiabortion movies, "The Silent Scream" and the newly released "Eclipse of Reason." Nathanson has just begun a liquids-only fast to attempt to force public officials to act against abortion.

Kemp refused to endorse the fast, saying, "I don't think our democratic system should be moved by that element."

Kemp said such differences are "a sign of strength" for the abortion opponents, proving that they now feel sufficient political stature to air their disagreements openly. Other analysts question whether antiabortion fervor will ever again have the impact it achieved in 1980, when "right-to-life" groups generally united behind Reagan's candidacy.

"It's not what it used to be," said conservative political observer Kevin Phillips. "These people gave their all for Ronald Reagan. But the Republicans have not delivered on the {constitutional} amendment {to prohibit abortion}. That's got to cool any right-to-lifer who's not a zealot. The people who are active are going to be split in the primaries."

To the extent the antiabortion movement plays a political role in 1988, its contribution will evidently be restricted to the Republican side.

A Right to Life Committee survey of 14 presidential contenders in both parties was released during the convention. It showed that none of the Democratic hopefuls supports a Constitutional amendment to reverse Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that said a woman's right to privacy limits governmental power to regulate abortions. All Republicans except Alexander M. Haig Jr. supported such an amendment, although they differed as to the wording they would support.

The political highlight of this convention was a session one youthful delegate dubbed "The Battle of the Pro-Life Stars", in which Kemp and televangelist Marion G. (Pat) Robertson went head-to-head in appeals for support in 1988. As expected, Kemp stressed legislation and focused on Congress, while Robertson opened with a quotation from scripture and built his antiabortion case on Biblical principles.

Both stirred rousing applause. Kemp received roughly equal cheers both before and after he spoke. Robertson got somewhat restrained applause when he was introduced; as his speech came to end, he won a boisterous standing ovation.