Democratic gubernatorial candidate Henry E. Howell said yesterday that he, like his Republican opponent, would not approve the use of state money to pay for abortions for indigent women in Virginia unless the abortion was necessary to the protect the health of the pregnant woman.

"Once life is created, it should not be terminated - especially at state expense - unless the health of the mother is threatened," Howell said in a statement made available by his campaign staff in Richmond.

He added, "I would urge a very broad definition of the word health to include mental and psychological as well as physical health."

On Thursday, Lt. Gov. John N. Dalton, Howell's Republican opponent in the Nov. 8 gubernatorial election, said he opposes state financing of elective abortions.

The statements by Howell and Dalton increase the likelihood that Virginia Medicaid patients who now receive up to $125 to pay for abortions without complications will have to pay the full cost of the operations in the future.

The state Board of Health has voted tentatively to cut off elective abortion aid. A final vote by the board could be taken as early as Nov. 30. The board's decision must be approved by the governor. It is possible that the issue will be decided by Gov. Mills E. Godwin before he leaves office on Jan. 14, but it may fall to either Dalton or Howell to take final action.