Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sunday urged members of his party to leave abortion discussions "alone," warning that focusing on the issue puts the Republican Party at risk of alienating young and female voters.

"As far as young women are concerned, absolutely, I don't think anybody like me -- I can state my position on abortion but, other than that, leave the issue alone, when we are in the kind of economic situation and, frankly, national security situation that we're in," McCain said during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday."

Fox host Chris Wallace asked McCain if that meant he would support "freedom of choice."

"I would allow people to have those opinions and respect those opinions," McCain responded. "I'm proud of my pro-life position and record. But if someone disagrees with me, I respect your views."

Abortion proved to be a difficult topic for Republicans in the 2012 election, when questionable comments from Senate candidates Richard Mourdock of Indiana and Todd Akin of Missouri on rape exemptions put the issue front and center. Both candidates were defeated by their Democratic rivals.

McCain stressed that the Republican party woud have to make changes to attract the voting groups that put President Obama over the edge, including young voters and women.

"The demographics are not on our side," he said. "We're going to have to give a much more positive agenda. We can't just be against the Democrats ... We have to be for things."

Watch McCain's full interview below:

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • "Bad Day" (Daniel Powter)

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/18/john-mccain-dadt-repeal-_n_798726.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(Dec. 18, 2010) -- </strong></a> In an interview with ABC News, McCain labeled the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" a "very sad day" (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • "Get Crazy" (LMFAO)

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/17/john-mccain-twitter_n_863253.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(May 17, 2011) --</strong></a> McCain draws upon "Jersey Shore" star Snooki to make a point about Twitter. While acknowledging the positives of the social media platform, the senator added that there are "dangerous aspects," pointing to his tweet about her tanning bed tax getting more attention than hard-news issues like the START treaty.

  • "No Way" (The Naked And Famous)

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/29/john-mccain-sarah-palin-c_n_868562.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(May 29, 2011) --</strong></a> In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, McCain was asked whether his former VP nominee, Sarah Palin, could defeat President Barack Obama head-to-head. "Of course she can," McCain said, adding that he was unsure if Palin would take on a 2012 run. She ended up not doing so. (ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

  • "I Made A Mistake" (Bob Marley & The Wailers)

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/05/john-mccain-obama-slip-up_n_1187504.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(Jan. 5, 2012) --</strong></a> At a campaign event for GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, McCain had a forgettable slip of the tongue. "I am confident, with the leadership and the backing of the American people, President Obama will turn this country around," he said. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

  • "Still The One" (Orleans)

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/10/mccain-palin-best-decision_n_1197772.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(Jan. 10, 2012) --</strong></a> Four years after a failed White House run, McCain stood by his vice presidential pick, calling Sarah Palin the "best decision" he's "ever made." (Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images)

  • "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" (Eurythmics)

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/17/john-mccain-2008-election_n_1431032.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(April 17, 2012) --</strong></a> While stumping for Ohio GOP Senate candidate Josh Mandel, McCain cracked a joke about his 2008 presidential election loss. "After I lost, my friends, I slept like a baby -- sleep two hours, wake up and cry," he said. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

  • "Imaginary" (Evanescence)

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/26/john-mccain-war-on-women_n_1455591.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(April 26, 2012) --</strong></a> While delivering a floor speech in favor of the Violence Against Women Act, McCain slammed Democrats over claims that the GOP is running a "war on women." "I don't believe the ludicrous, partisan posturing that has conjured up this imaginary war does," McCain said. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

  • "You're A Jerk" (New Boyz)

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/29/john-mccain-heckled-memorial-day_n_1552400.html " target="_hplink"><strong>(May 29, 2012) --</strong></a> While delivering a speech in California, McCain lashed out at a spectator in the crowd, calling the heckler a "jerk" for interrupting his remarks. (TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • "Zombie" (The Cranberries)

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/05/john-mccain-zombie-apocalypse-meghan-mccain_n_1572084.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(June 5, 2012) --</strong></a> In the midst of a summer of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/zombie-apocalypse/" target="_hplink">odd cannibalistic attacks</a>, McCain joked that his daughter, Meghan, believes he is a zombie. "She does, in fact," he said. "But she thinks I'm a nice zombie."

  • "Bold As Love" (Jimi Hendrix)

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/12/john-mccain-mitt-romney-vp-sarah-palin_n_1770856.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(Aug. 12, 2012) --</strong></a> Days after Romney selected Paul Ryan as his vice presidential nominee, McCain took a stroll down memory lane, drawing some comparisons to his 2008 decision. He vowed that the Ryan pick was "also a bold choice" like his move to pair with Palin. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)