A Northern Virginia physician was arrested yesterday on charges he performed an illegal abortion, the first time in five years that anyone has been accused of the crime in Fairfax County.

Officials said Dr. Chris Simopoulos, who was employed at the American Woman's Clinic in Falls Church, was charged with performing an abortion outside a hospital setting on a woman more than 13 weeks pregnant.

Virginia law allows abortions to be performed anywhere during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, but states that any later abortions must be in a hospital in the presence of several physicians.

A Falls Church investigator said the abortion allegedly was performed using a saline injection administered at the clinic.

Fairfax County prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr. said a police investigation began after a fetus, believed to be 20 weeks old, was discovered in a Springfield motel room.

Arrests for illegal abortions have been extremely rare following the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that limited the powers of states to restrict abortions. The court then held that the states were able to set conditions on abortions performed after the first three months of pregnancy.

Dr. Simopoulos, who lives at 7532 Thistledown Ter., Fairfax Station, refused to comment on the charges. Officials of the American Woman's Clinic, 916 W. Broad St., Falls Church, could not be reached for coment.

If convicted, Simopoulos could face a sentence of two to 10 years in prison, Horah said.

The doctor was released on a $5,000 bond pending a hearing Dec. 12 in Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

A Fairfax County official said yesterday that Simopoulos was a gynecologist and obstetrician whose main office is located at 14416 Jefferson Davis Hwy. in Woodbridge.