Rep. Stan Parris (R-Va.) said yesterday he supports federal funding for abortions for poor women when the pregnancy threatens the mother's life or results from rape or incest, a less restrictive position than he took when he sought the Republican nomination for governor last year.

Alexandria Mayor James P. Moran Jr., Parris's Democratic opponent in his reelection bid in the 8th District, accused Parris of making a politically motivated flip-flop on the issue, a charge Parris denied. Moran, who supports abortion rights, has made the issue a focal point of his campaign.

In early 1989, while seeking the votes of conservatives in his campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, Parris was quoted in a newspaper interview as saying that abortion should be legal only in cases in which the mother's life was threatened.

Parris subsequently contended that he was misquoted in the interview, but said yesterday that his position was reported accurately. He acknowledged that his position now is different, but said he has not had a change of heart.

He explained that as a House member, he votes only on federal funding for abortions for poor women, who account for only a fraction of all abortions performed. As a candidate for governor, he said, he was addressing potential changes in Virginia law that would affect all women seeking abortions in the state.

Parris said that when he was running for governor, the majority of people he met in the campaign supported abortion only when the pregnancy threatened the life of the mother.

"I took that position at that time. I don't have to tell you I was unsuccessful" in the governor's race, Parris said. Parris was defeated by J. Marshall Coleman in the Republican primary last year.

In Congress, "all we deal with at the federal level is funding" for abortions, Parris said. He said his current position "is consistent with dozens of federal votes" he has cast on the issue.

Moran charged that Parris's present position on abortion "doesn't make sense . . . . This is a simple case of political expediency.

"He's saying his position on abortion depends on whether he's running for governor or for Congress. The State of Virginia is more conservative than his district in Northern Virginia . . . . The polls obviously determine his moral and philosophical position on issues."

Last year, abortion became a major issue in the campaign for governor. Gov. L. Douglas Wilder's victory is credited in part to his vigorous support of abortion rights, a stand that was particularly popular in the Washington suburbs. Moran's campaign strategy draws on Wilder's example.

Parris, by contrast, is trying to portray Moran as "an extremist" on abortion because he supports the current Virginia law, which does not restrict abortions during the first six months of pregnancy. Parris says the law allows abortion "for selecting the sex of a child or birth control," which he does not support.

Moran said he believes government officials should have no role in determining whether a woman gets an abortion. He also questioned whether Parris has any firm beliefs about abortion.

"What I don't respect," Moran said, "is someone in political leadership who has no convictions, but is willing to stir people's emotions."

Parris's remarks came in response to reporters' questions at a forum sponsored by the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce yesterday. Moran addressed a similar forum last week, and responded to Parris's statements in an interview.