As Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, Mitt Romney supports basic abortion rights, but he says when he was a Mormon lay leader he would have encouraged women against aborting except in certain cases.

He told The Boston Globe in an interview that there was no conflict between his positions.Romney is running against Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who has strong support from abortion rights activists.

The Globe asked Romney about an article in an Arlington-based Mormon feminist publication in which an unidentified woman said an unnamed church leader advised her not to have an abortion.

The Globe said it was told by sources that Romney was the leader. Romney said he cannot recall the case.

He declined to discuss specific cases when asked what advice he gave on abortion as a lay leader, saying counseling sessions are confidential.

But taking a hypothetical case of a woman telling him she was considering abortion, he said, "I would encourage her to have the child unless it was a case of rape, incest, danger to the life of the mother or severe birth abnormality."

He said he would not take that position as a public officeholder.

"As an official of the church, I did my best to represent the teachings of the church, but when you ask me what I think our society should do, I believe society should allow individuals to do whatever they choose and live by whatever beliefs they have.

Romney has said he would prefer to leave the question of Medicaid financing of abortions up to individual states.

The Globe asked him about an article in the Fall 1990 issue of the publication Exponent II.

An unidentified Mormon mother of five wrote that she had become pregnant with an unwanted child and decided to have an abortion after doctors said a pelvic blood clot could pose serious problems for her health and the health of the fetus.

She said her Mormon bishop visited her when she was hospitalized for treatment of the blood clot and advised her against an abortion.

The woman said she told him that his superior, the stake president, who was a doctor, had told her the blood clot justified an abortion.

She said the bishop replied, "I don't believe you. He wouldn't say that. I'm going to call him."

The woman said she asked her husband to tell the bishop to leave her alone, and she had the abortion.