The law should guarantee equal pay for women and men, if they hold identical jobs. The United States should afford equal rights to the sexes, but not through an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. And abortion should be made illegal.

These planks form the basis of the Reagan administration policy toward women. The policy has been one of the mostly hotly contested of a presidency that has been marked by a persistent ''gender gap,'' the name given to the fact that women have rated the President lower than have men both in opinion polls and at the ballot box.

A Reagan campaign statement says, ''Equal pay for equal work is the law of the land and it's being vigorously enforced.'' The administration reports that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recovered more back pay in 1983 than the Carter administration in its final year.

Critics charge that the EEOC, while winning back pay for some individuals, has sharply cut back on charges of systematic patterns of discrimination that would affect large numbers of workers.

Another equal-pay enforcer, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which oversees government contractors, has reduced its back-pay awards from a high of $9 million in 1980 to less than $1 million in 1983.

Mr. Reagan opposes the ERA in part because it would mean courts instead of legislatures would decide questions such as whether women should go into combat. Instead of the ERA, he has favored a variety of reforms, a reduced ''marriage penalty'' in federal taxes, tax credits for child-care costs, and individual retirement accounts for homemakers.

Two major reforms enacted this year include bills to protect women's pension rights and to enforce collection of child support from delinquent parents. In some cases, the Reagan administration did not initiate the reforms but agreed to go along, especially after the urging of GOP lawmakers.

The Reagan administration lays claim to the best record in history of appointing women. Outside groups have totaled up his appointees and found that President Carter named more women to high posts, especially to court benches. The difference in conclusions seems to come from differences in counting the officials and whether a person named to three boards is counted once or three times.

Reagan has one indisputable first: the selection of Sandra Day O'Connor as the first woman justice on the US Supreme Court. Also, three women serve on his Cabinet, the most ever to serve simultaneously.

In other issues touching women, the Reagan policy of slowing the growth of federal spending has meant restricting funds for child nutrition, welfare, and medical aid for the poor. The recipients of these programs largely are mothers and children.

The Reagan campaign argues that women were hurt by a stagnant economy in 1980 and by Democrats who treated them ''like just another special interest group.''

Women are benefiting from the improved economic climate, the GOP campaign says.

The incumbent has pledged to continue backing a constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion except when the mother's life is endangered.

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