PORTLAND, ORE., AUG. 22 -- They talked about defense and arms control, about budgets and taxes and Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork. They talked about day care and health care and education and aid to the contras.

The one subject the five declared and prospective Democratic presidential candidates did not raise with the 1,000 activist women at the convention of the National Women's Political Caucus was abortion and the "right to choice."

Nor did Sens. Paul Simon of Illinois and Albert Gore Jr. of Tennessee, Reps. Patricia Schroeder of Colorado and Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri or Jesse L. Jackson have much to say about the other prominent issue of the women's movement, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Jackson evoked cheers when he said the ERA is needed to "take the hypocrisy out of our democracy," but the others gave it brief or no mention.

Ann Lewis, newly elected chairman of the NWPC's Democratic task force, said it showed "the candidates have moved beyond appealing to women's organizations on our two touchstone issues of 'choice' and ERA and are showing us respect by recognizing that all issues are women's issues."

Lewis also said an informal survey of the Democrats in attendance showed "we are as divided as any other group in the party" when it comes to candidate preference.

Schroeder, who said she will announce a decision on her possible candidacy next month, was listed as the favorite more often than anyone else, said Lewis, who is advising the Jackson campaign. The second-largest category, she said, comprised those who listed two or more names. "Undecided" finished third.

Schroeder, whose appearance Thursday night drew shouts of "run, Pat, run," seemed to draw the most enthusiastic response, with second honors going to Gephardt's spirited appearance this morning.

The reception was somewhat surprising, because Gephardt dropped his support of an antiabortion constitutional amendment less than two years ago. But he was taken through several private meetings here by Missouri Lt. Gov. Harriett Woods, a longtime leader of the NWPC, and he seemed to have made some converts.

His loudest cheers came for his assault on Bork. "Ronald Reagan has stepped out of the mire of the Iran-contra affair," Gephardt said, "to nominate one of the villains of the Watergate scandal to the highest court of the land."

Referring to Bork's firing of Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox after Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson and his deputy, William D. Ruckelshaus, had resigned rather than carry out White House orders that Cox be removed, Gephardt said, "If he {Bork} hadn't done it, Richard {M.} Nixon couldn't have fired Archibald Cox and would have had to keep him."

Richardson has said repeatedly he knew that Nixon had authority under law to fire Cox himself. But Gephardt told reporters, "I don't agree with Richardson . . . . That's my view and that's what I think."

Simon, a member of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters that Bork's action was "a mistake in judgment, but I wouldn't disqualify him on that ground alone."

Simon said he had recently told Bork privately that "I would not make a final decision until I have heard his testimony, but I have very serious reservations" about his elevation from the circuit court.

Gore, who spoke Friday, said he is the only Democratic contender who has not announced opposition to Bork, because "I believe it is important to have due process." But he hastened to assure them that "in my administration, Robert Bork wouldn't even be on the list of those considered for the Supreme Court."

Gore, who has often stressed elsewhere the need for Democrats to avoid "litmus test" promises to interest groups, told the NWPC audience that "50 percent of the top posts in my campaign are held by women, and I want that same ratio in my administration."

Asked at a news conference whether that was a special-interest appeal, Gore said it was not because "the nation has a broad national interest in greater inclusion of women . . . . There's so much talent we ought to be looking for equal participation."

A reporter then asked Gore whether he could furnish the names and titles of some of the women in his campaign hierarchy. He offered to send her the list. And when she asked whether he could recall one or two examples, he mentioned "my deputy campaign manager for issue development, Paige Durham."

A few minutes later, Gore contacted the reporter to say the aide's name is actually Paige Crosland.